Glasgow 2014 blast from the past: Liz McColgan

Liz McColgan with her gold medal after winning the 10,000m at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Crauford Tait
Liz McColgan with her gold medal after winning the 10,000m at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Crauford Tait
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On the return of the Commonwealth Games to Edinburgh in 1986, the 10,000 metres was still in its infancy as an event for women.

That distance had yet to be run at either the Olympic Games or the IAAF World Championships, so there was no reliable form guide for the race at Meadowbank Stadium.

“I wasn’t a favourite going into the race,” Liz McColgan remembered earlier this year. “I always thought, because we were in Scotland, I wouldn’t run well. I just thought ‘It won’t be a big atmosphere – it’s kind of just running at your local track’. But the exact opposite happened.”

It did indeed. Just 22, Liz Lynch, as she was then, took the field by storm. Anne Audain of New Zealand hung on to the Scot for a time after everyone else had been burned off, but she could not live with the pace over the closing stages.

Lynch’s time of 31mins 41.42sec smashed the British record, and was more than ten seconds clear of Audain. Angela Tooby of Wales took bronze. It was the only athletics gold of the Games for the hosts, and the home crowd gave the young Dundonian a rapturous reception.

“I never, ever experienced the same atmosphere again at any other championships,” she said. “When you’re running in front of a home crowd, you’re sharing your victory with all the people there. It just means so much more.”

Many countries had boycotted the 1986 Games in protest at the Thatcher government’s attitude to apartheid-era South Africa, but Lynch soon went on to prove she could hold her own against the strongest fields in the world. Having married Northern Irish athlete Peter McColgan in 1987, she ran under her new name at the Seoul Olympics the following year, and took silver.

In 1990, when the Commonwealth Games were in Auckland, she retained her 10,000m title, and also took bronze in the 3,000m. Then, in 1991, came her greatest achievement, when, just nine months after giving birth to her first child Eilish, she won the 10,000m at the world championships in Tokyo.

That performance led to McColgan being named BBC Sports Personality of the Year 1991, but it was her ability to rise to the occasion in Edinburgh five years earlier that will inspire our athletes when the Games return to Scotland next summer.