Eilish McColgan is ready to strain every sinew in Birmingham next month to stamp her passport for her second Olympic Games – and join the Scottish throng in Rio.
The former steeplechaser is now in pole position to qualify for Team GB and NI in the 5000m following a successful event switch and rehabilitation from an injury which sidelined her for the whole of 2015.
McColgan, who was in Scotland this week to present the Lindsays Cross Country Trophy to Giffnock North AAC, didn’t even believe in January that making the Olympics was possible.
Now, though, she is desperate to join a team which already includes marathon runners Callum and Derek Hawkins and 10,000m runner Beth Potter – all friends of Eilish for a decade and more.
‘There’s so much happening at the moment in terms of the Scots and the potential for Rio that it is really exciting,’ said Eilish.
‘A lot of us have grown up together competing at events, being on teams, training together at camps at home and abroad.
‘I’m thrilled for someone like Derek Hawkins in particular because I’ve known him for years. When he ran so well at london and then the Olympic selection came through, I think I was one of the first to text him ‘well done’.
‘I was in America recently for a training camp with Beth Potter and Andrew Butchart was there, too. I hadn’t met Andrew before but he’s a great guy and I was there trackside in Holland when he took that Scottish 5000m record.
‘He’d been bawling for me a bit earlier in my 5000m race and now we are both in the same position – we have the GB qualifying standards and need to get in the top two at the trial.
‘At the start of 2016 I never even thought the Olympics would be possible. I thought it was just a comeback year. But I went through something like this in 2011 and 2012 to get to London 2012 – and a hurlder the other say was telling me ‘maybe your timing is quite good!’’
Eilish started out in athletes in cross country in her early teens and is sponsored by legal firm Lindsays, who back the Scottish Cross Country Season.
Giffnock North AAC topped a table prepared by governing body scottishathletics tallying the number of finishers by clubs at three major National XC events at Cumbernauld, Bellahouston Park and Falkirk across the 2015-16 season.
The Glasgow club had more than 200 athletes finish those three events – the National Relays, the National Short Course champs and the National XC itself – and that was enough to win from second-placed Edinburgh AC, with their tallies 217 and 166 respectively. Ronhill Cambuslang were third.
Eilish, who won her first British title in that discipline back when she was 13 years of age, was on hand at Giffnock’s training night at Williamwood High School to present the trophy and meet athletes and coaches. She was joined by Ian Beattie and Claire McCracken of Lindsays.
‘We are delighted at the success of our partnership with scottishathletics through our sponsorship of the Scottish Cross Country Season,’ said Ian Beattie, Chief Operating Officer of Lindsays and also Chairman of scottishathletics.
‘I am particularly pleased for everyone involved at Giffnock North AAC; they are a fantastic club who have done a lot of great work in developing athletes of all ages, and fully deserve their success in winning the Lindsays Trophy.
‘I look forward to continuing our sponsorship of the 2016-17 Cross Country Season, and it will be interesting to see who will follow Edinburgh AC and Giffnock North AAC in winning the trophy.’
Bernie Campbell, head coach with Giffnock North AAC, said: ‘We are delighted to win the Lindsays Trophy and it is a nice feather in the cap for the club.
‘We’ve had a big commitment to the National Cross Country events over the past season and to get more than 200 finishers reflects well on athletes and their coaches.
‘There’s a good spirt at Giffnock at the moment and, although this is a cross country specific award, I feel sure the whole club will feel proud and we’ve folk doing good things in jumps, sprints and throws as well.’
Eilish believes that cross country is a fundamental part of athletics.
‘My first experience of running and the reason I decided to go along to an athletics club was my involvement in the local primary school race – I absolutely loved it,’ she said.
‘It is not always the ideal day for most people – cold and wet while running miles over muddy hills – but weirdly enough I enjoyed it. It was the first time I had competed at an individual sport and I was in control. I loved the feeling of being completely exhausted at the end and knowing I couldn’t have given an ounce more of effort.
‘My first ever British Title actually came from cross country as an U13.’
Top ten for the Lindsays Trophy (Finishers per club across three events)
1 Giffnock North AAC 217
2 Edinburgh AC 166
3 Ronhill Cambuslang Harriers 158
4 Garscube Harriers 142
5 Central AC 137
6 Falkirk Victoria Harriers 129
7 Corstorphine AAC 128
8 Kilbarchan AAC 126
9 VP-Glasgow 110
10 Inverclyde AC 109