Eilish McColgan’s world championships will focus exclusively on a single event.
The Dundonian, assessing conditions and competitiveness, last night pulled out of tomorrow’s 10,000 metres and will solely target the 5000m next week. Given the formidable heat that smacks visitors to Doha upon arrival, it is a wonder anyone is running at all.
Instead, she will rest up for the start of her call into action from the comfort of the British team’s lavish hotel in Doha’s West Bay. She could have opted, instead, to stay at home. Mum Liz and her husband John have made a new life for themselves in the baking sun of Qatar where they jointly run the city’s main athletics club.
Most of the runners, jumpers and throwers who have gathered on the edge of the Persian Gulf are on a trip into the unknown.
McColgan, now 28, knows the newly-built streets like the back of her hand. And how to avoid any cultural faux-pas after visiting here regularly over the past five years. Being one of the strictest Muslim countries poses its challenges, she admits. You just learn to adapt and take it all in.
Yet having her own support crew on site means she will be one of the few athletes with a fan club cheering her on. “There is a little bit of pressure. Last year, we had these all these kids who go to my mum’s club who bought tickets the instant they went on sale.
“There’s not a huge amount of sporting events in Qatar. I mean they have the tennis Qatar Open. They go to the Doha Diamond League. And they were gutted I didn’t race it this year so they all went and bought a ticket well in advance for the World Champs. I did have to remind them ‘I’m not qualified yet. Hopefully I’ll be there and I’ll see you guys.’”
At least her arrival’s guaranteed a few bums on seats. The IAAF has finally acknowledged that ticket sales have been chronic. The capacity of the Khalifa International Stadium has been slashed in half but organisers will still bus in children and migrant workers to avoid the embarrassing sight of empty stands.
Human rights here still leave a lot to be desired. The bidding process that won the right to bring the Fifa World Cup to Qatar in 2022 still carries the stench of corruption. The one that secured athletics’ major showpiece made a mockery of the plea for athletes to ‘Run Clean’.
And then there’s the horrific heat that’s forced the championships to run into October – its latest ever finish - as well as requiring cold air to be funnelled into the stadium to allow everyone to keep their cool. But McColgan believes the fear factor has been overhyped.
“They used it for the Diamond League and for the Asian championships earlier this year as well and I think it was quite a stable temperature at mid 20s. And I’m trusting it will be like that.”
Take pity, she admits, on the women’s marathon runners who’ll hit the streets at midnight when the temperatures are still well into the 30s. Anyone who hasn’t prepared for the conditions will risk burning up.
The stars will be out, she trusts, when she enters the fray. It’s 28 years since her mother stormed the track in Tokyo and took a world title with a gallop to gold.
Her daughter will likely still attempt to follow her into the 10,000m at next summer’s Olympics. The 5,000m will be a race for survival. “Having heats and a final makes it very difficult to get a personal best,” she said. “But I’ll try and get as close as I can and that’s all I can ask for really. I try not to focus too much on position. You can’t control anyone else.”