McColgan delighted to be back in old routine
As she has done hundreds, if not thousands, of times before, Eilish McColgan will kneel on the side of the track this morning at Dundee's Caird Park and lace up her spikes in preparation for a session of graft and toil.
This time, however, she will offer up a silent prayer of thanks, grateful to be allowed once more to perform the simple routines that mark out an athlete's daily regime.
It is nearly six months since the young Scottish steeplechaser lowered her personal best in a Diamond League meeting at Crystal Palace. Any sense of heady accomplishment was drowned out by the searing pain in her foot. Bones were broken. Her spirit, at least temporarily, followed suit. Due to be named, just 24 hours later, in the Great Britain team for the world championships in Daegu, being told that she required surgery followed by a long period of rehabilitation was a harsh blow.
"I just really struggled for the two weeks after that," says the 21-year-old. "I was so upset. I was meant to go to the World University Games in China as well and I'd had all my inoculations. I was meant to do the New York Fifth Avenue Mile at the end of the September as well. All these plans were sorted out. I was looking forward to those and the world championships as well, but it all got taken away."
Having spent last week under the watchful supervision of UK Athletics medical staff at Bisham Abbey, McColgan has been cleared, finally, to resume training. There will be elation, she declares, but also relief. The healing process has proven quicker than expected, accelerating her ambitions to return faster and stronger for a season which she hopes will incorporate a trip to the Olympic Games.
Hitherto forbidden to do what comes naturally, the Dundee University student has instead been confined to the gym, taking out her frustrations on the machines within. Asked to adapt her regime, she admits to a new self-discipline. "My lifestyle's in a better place now than it was 12 months ago," she confesses. "Things are really different. Because of the rehab programme, I've been forced to focus on other aspects of being an athlete. So now the actual running is just the final component."
It will go firstly step by step, then jump by jump. Her father Peter, once an international athlete himself, has been offering words of advice. "Dad was quite upset when it first happened," she confirms. "Steeplechase was his event and he felt it was partly his fault for some strange reason."
Parental irrationalities aside, the worst aspect of her confinement, she says, was losing her independence. Trips to the shower required a chaperone. Going to the shop became a major expedition. It was a living, waking nightmare. "And I really struggled with that. So I'm a hell of lot happier now, being able to do what I want when I want and going for runs. I've just got a lot more time because the rehab took so long every day. Now I can fit everything in."
She has six months to prove herself once more. The prospect of a debut Olympic appearance, at least, provides the greatest possible incentive to push through the aches and strains. Her advisors have no qualms, McColgan states, over her readiness for what lies ahead. "Obviously I won't be doing my normal amount of training to start with," she proclaims. "But it's a big step forward."
Caird Park, she adds, will witness an athlete renewed. "I've realised how much you do miss it when you can't run for five months. It's so much more enjoyable. I can't wait to get up to the track and get out there beside everyone."