British 5000m record-holder’s half-marathon debut will aid her athletics education as she plots a potential route towards the marathon in 2022

Eilish McColgan is an athlete who has never been afraid to try her hand at a variety of distances. Just during the course of this year alone, so far the former steeplechaser has raced across 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and 10,000m.

She is no stranger to a road 10km, either, while she also has a victory in the 10-mile Great South Run from 2019 to her name and there was an enjoyable stint as a pacemaker in last year’s elite-only London Marathon, which saw her cover 17 miles. “That’s the furthest I’ve ever run,” she laughs.

If all goes to plan, however, the 30-year-old will be going further in 2022. Track ambitions still burn brightly but the roads are calling, too, and autumn marathon options are being considered.

As part of her ongoing road running education, as well as her philosophy to grab the opportunities which come her way, McColgan will be making her half-marathon debut at this weekend’s 40thGreat North Run, lining up in Newcastle as part of a top quality and intriguing women’s elite field which features the likes of Kenya’s 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri, American Olympic marathon bronze medallist Molly Seidel and fellow Briton Charlotte Purdue.

Eilish McColgan and Hellen Obiri (Getty)

Coming off the back of a successful but gruelling track season it will be a performance without pressure but another chance to learn.

“I think a lot of athletes are maybe scared to do other events and they sort of pigeon hole themselves in one discipline but it [mixing things up] has always been something that I’ve just found enjoyable,” says the British 5000m record-holder.

“I always view it as there’s no pressure on me to go into the event and I think it’s probably why I enjoy the 1500m so much – I like throwing myself into an event where I just run as hard as I possibly can.

“I don’t have any real expectation and to be honest I feel the same at the other end of the [running] spectrum, as well. I’m proud that I’m able to still compete at a relatively high level in those events and something that I’ve always prided myself on as an athlete, what I’ve always wanted to be able to do, is to be capable of running different disciplines and not just having to stick to the one event all the time.”

She adds: “I’m just seeing this half really as a challenge. It’s going to be really tough for me because I’ve not quite done the amount of volume or training that I would like heading into this weekend but I just think you have to take the opportunities.

“It’s probably too close to this track season but I just think with Covid and stuff you take the opportunities as they come and if I can just be competitive with these top ladies over this distance that will put me in a good position for next year.”

Next year certainly looks like being a busy one for McColgan. The British 10,000m champion, who clocked a personal best of 30:58.94 for the distance earlier this year also has the national record (Paula Radcliffe’s 30:01.09) in mind, plus there is a World Championships, Commonwealth Games and European Championships to aim for. Like her mother and coach Liz, a former London Marathon winner, tackling the 26.2-mile distance is also on the to do list.

“The marathon has always been this sort of final step for me. I think it’s always been in the back of my mind, even when I was younger, that that’s the sort of natural progression I would take,” says McColgan.

“I suppose it’s been a little bit slower because of Covid. I wanted to do a couple of years competing at a world level over the 10,000m before I moved on. I really wanted to try and run, literally, just as fast as I possibly could on the track before I take that speed up with me on to the roads so it’s probably been a little bit of a slower build-up than I would have liked because we have essentially lost a year.

“I would still like to have ambitions of trying to run as close as I can to that 10,000m British record – it’s something that I’d love to do – but I think it marries quite well with the half and with the marathon anyway.

Eilish McColgan at the 2021 10,000m European Cup (Getty)

“Certainly heading into next year I think the focus of this summer will be on the track before looking towards a marathon, perhaps in the autumn.

“We’re still debating which one to maybe look at but that’s the original plan. I have a lot more miles to build in and see how I do but that’s the plan we’re building towards.”

As for her weekend plans, McColgan is looking forward to being part of what will be a celebratory, landmark occasion on Tyneside at the end of a season which has

“Even on the plane here, there were a few people saying ‘good luck on Sunday’, that they had raced here and they’ve done it so many times,” she adds. “I know it’s such a prestigious race and people love to do it. People are proud of this event as well so it’s really, really cool to be here and to be part of it.”

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