Hannah Rose Irwin
She’s represented GB at two Olympics (London & Rio) and Scotland at two Commonwealth Games. She boasts personal bests of 14:46 for 5,000m and 31:16 for 10,000m, both set in 2019, and she is sponsored by Asics. Eilish McColgan, at only 30 years old, has achieved a phenomenal amount, and she is only getting faster. Looking to step up the distances when the time allows, Eilish is currently focusing on breaking her mother's (Liz McColgan) 10,000m Scottish record and the upcoming (fingers crossed) Olympics where she is hoping to compete in the 10,000m.
Eilish kindly took the time to speak to me about all things training in the pandemic, periods, and the upcoming Olympics. We asked her how she has made the most of the current situation.
Whilst this year has been far from ideal, it has been a chance to just get stuck into training, what have you focused on in training and have you made any changes as a result of this extended period of training ?
"I've focused on building up my volume a little this year as my main goal was to race my first ever half marathon and of course aim to qualifying for the Olympics over the 10,000m too. So my goals were definitely aimed at moving towards the longer distances and increasing my general mileage as typically I only run around 45-50 per week. We also changed the format of my week a little to ensure I have more recovery and a day off which has made a big difference too."
For a lot of people, the pandemic has meant training alone, a concept they are very unfamiliar with. However, for McColgan, this is not unknown territory.
You seem to train alone (in normal times as well), or with your boyfriend (Michael Rimmer) how do you find this as a lot of people seem to prefer training in groups?
"I'd love to have a group but as I follow my mums coaching plan, it's difficult to fit in with other squads without having to change our entire plan. So instead, I've had to just follow my own schedule and continue with the sessions that I know work for me. If I could have a group but keep my mum as a coach - that would be the ideal scenario but unfortunately it's just a little unrealistic with regards to the way our sport works."
Something I spoke about in a recent blog post, was periods. Eilish McColgan has spoken out a lot recently about how her menstrual cycle impacts her training and makes her feel. I asked her about her experiences.
You’ve recently spoken out about the impact of your periods on training, do you adapt training according to where you are in your cycle or do you only really make changes if your symptoms become more impacting?
"I've tried everything and never really found an approach that works. I completely remove all gym work the week of my programme and lessen the intensity of my sessions that week too. It's definitely helped but doesn't solve the issue entirely. This year, I've actually just been fitted with the coil. It's very early days but I'm hoping it will help alleviate some of the pain and symptoms I experience! "
You can view Eilish's interview with the Female Athlete Pod where she talks all things periods. Click the picture below to view it.
As a runner, you have to be able to push your body to the limit, but how does one of the nation’s best prepare for a tough session?
How do you approach and prepare for tough sessions both mentally and physically?
"I go through the same warm up, regardless of what the session is. It's the same warm up I have on race day too so I find that familiarity is usually enough for me to mentally get in the zone for the session ahead."
It isn’t just preparing for the session that is important, what you do in it is vital. When things get tough, what drives McColgan to dig deep, whether it is in a session or when times are testing, as they are now.
What drives you to dig deep when things get tough, whether that’s in a session or when times are testing like they are now.
"I just really enjoy running so even if there were no races going ahead - I'd still run every day and still enjoy training sessions. For me, I get a buzz from pushing myself in training and seeing the improvements month by month. It's enough to keep me motivated."
Something we all desperately hope goes ahead, but not quite as much as those athletes preparing for it, is the Olympics. I asked Eilish, How are you preparing mentally for the Olympics with all the uncertainty that surrounds qualification and the games themselves?
"Of course it's frustrating not being able to plan your training or racing schedule properly. But I'm really fortunate to have been to two Olympic Games already so it's not something I am going to overly stress about. It is absolutely my goal and dream to make my third games but as much as I want it to be a proper Olympics - I can't see it happening. I think it will go ahead but it will be a watered down version of what we are used to. My aim remains the same regardless - run as fast as I can and hope to PB across the board. My mums Scottish record over the 10,000m is my main goal for the year."
Finally, if you could pick your favourite quote, what would it be?
"To be the best, you have to constantly be challenging yourself, raising the bar, pushing the limits of what you can do. Don't stand still, leap forward."
Thank you Eilish for taking the time to talk to us and good luck for the year ahead!