Running And Blogging My Way Through Life.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Doha Athletics Club

With all the recent negativety within athletics, I hope this blog shows the purer side to our sport! Avoiding the obvious links to Qatar and the World Cup – I want to keep this positive for once!

I had hoped to travel to Qatar and surprise my mum for her birthday but unfortunately, I had to delay my trip – by a week or so – due to the fact I am still currently hobbling around, with a broken ankle! Things haven't been easy for the McColgan clan over the last few years but I am extremely proud of the way my family has coped with the huge changes. My mum is an extremely strong woman, which many of you already know and has been a huge influence to me over the years.

She now resides in Qatar with her second husband, John. She moved out there with absolutely nothing but within one year has built up - from scratch - a brilliant athletics club for young kids living out in Doha. Sport and Qatar are two words that are rarely intertwined, unless it involves the World Cup! But my mum has truly given young girls (and boys) the chance to be a part of something, a team. The Doha Athletics Club runs three days a week and takes kids of all ages. She also runs a mini athletics group, for kids under the age of 9, that are wanting to get started! It's lovely to see how much the kids enjoy it. They love being part of a 'team' and have a great social side – meeting up outside of the club aswell as going along to see their friends each week. They all share the same passion – running! Each week, they practice different track sessions, drills, stretching and core work. It's an opportunity that they would not have received otherwise. Hopefully, with a little funding or support from companies or sponsors, the club can also open doors to races (something many of the kids has never done before) and potentially racing other schools abroad in Oman and Dubai.

The group mainly train indoors at this time of the year, as outside temperatures are hitting that of which I have only ever seen on an oven! The faciities at the Aspire Academy are brilliant and my mum has managed to secure use of a two-laned indoor 'track', hidden in the basement, underneath the main 200m indoor track. It's not exactly the ritz of tracks but the squad make the best of it and take it in their stride. The basement track is completely enclosed and so it provides the kids with a completely secure enviroment to train and also allows them to wear (within reason) whatever sports clothes they want. On the track outdoors – they have to be covered as much as possible, which can be extremely difficult in heat, in excess of 42 degrees!

I took the chance to film the kids taking part in their sessions and interviewed them with a few simple questions – why do you like runnning? What do you like about the club? Will you run in the future? The answers I received were hilarious. Children provide such honesty and I was totally overwhelmed with their responses. It was evident how much they all loved running. From kids hoping to be the next batch of future Olympians to others just wanting to keep fit and healthy – it really was insipring. With all the negativity regarding athletics at the moment, it was really nice to see athletics at it's purest – kids, putting one foot in front of the other, pushing themselves, all because they love the thrill of running.

The funniest answer I received all day was from a young, eight year old girl. I asked her how running could help her in the future – which for an eight year old was probably a little bit demanding! But she was brillaint. Intelligent and extremely articulate for her young years. She answered that, “running could help her in the future because if there was ever a fire”, that she could “run away fast”. Hilarious. It was also amazing to see how much respect she had for my mum as her 'Coach Liz'. It was heartwarming to see the impact that my mum is having on the group and probably something I never truly appreciated in the past as a kid – they all really look up to her.

Three of the Qatari kids, whom my mum coaches (they are somewhere down the line of the Al-thani royal line), have their own driver, nanny and security guard at all times! I met the youngest of them, Hammad and at the age of five – he lives a life I can't even begin to imagine. The security guard comes in a few minutes before the session starts to check the track and surrounding area, making sure everything is secure. He then takes Hammad down to join in with the session but stays to watch for the entire duration. This young lad is completely oblivious to it all, as he starts his one lap warm up jog, attempts to do some stretches, followed by sprints. It's humorous watching someone so young, as their coordination is all over the place but he listened very intently to my mum and you could tell he wanted to impress her. They have an immense respect for 'Coach Liz' and I believe athletics not only helps with the basics of keeping healthy and fit but it also instills discipline into the children. It was obvious to see how highly the children regarded my mums advice and I loved the chance to meet them all – they were a brilliant, engaging, friendly bunch.

One of the young Qatari boys decided to bring along his persian cat one evening. This cat was the Beyonce of cats. It was perched on his shoulder like a parrot, staring at my mum as she asked all the kids to commence their warm up jog. The boy went to go jog before my mum asked him to remove that cat from his shoulder! His nanny then asked if he could 'run with the cat'. Brilliant. I couldn't of made up a better story! My mum told them that he 'would be able to run much faster without a cat slowing him down' and so he finally decided to put the cat back into the car!

In my first visit to Qatar last year, I witnessed the first time EVER that a young female athlete was allowed to complete in an indoor race alongside boys being in attendance. Back home we would find this ludicrous! But Qatar is a deeply religious country and so it is important to respect their morals. I am glad to see a glimmer of change though with the World Championships coming to Qatar in 2019 – with regards to women’s sport – things need to change. I believe my mum is at the forefront of that and really building dreams for kids that wouldn't have known the importance of athletics – keeping fit, creating goals and making life-long friends. I couldn't be any prouder.

Below is a video I filmed of my time with the group – it's a little rushed and a few mistakes (but it was done in my final hour before leaving Qatar!!).

Monday, 1 June 2015

Who would YOU choose?

It's been a good few weeks since I've had a proper conversation with another human being, other than over text message or Skype. Injuries can make a person go insane! But the other day, I popped along to the Physio room, for a quick 5minute catch up with the doctor. There was a good debate going on amongst the athletes and staff, which I was quickly dragged into. I thought it was a brilliant question.

If you had ONE enquiry, to find out if any athlete (past or present) was doping - who would it be?

My initial instinct was to go for the fastest man the world has ever seen, Usain Bolt. I would love to believe he is clean but it would definitely be my ear marked athlete to question - just to find out for definite how fast man really can go, naturally! The more I thought about it, the more other sportspeople came to the forefront of my mind. All of the athletes had different ones that they would enquire about and it was really interesting to listen to all the differing opinions. One thing is for sure though, drugs are ruining the sport we all love. 

So, who would you choose?! And why?!

Post your comments below... 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

2015..Good Riddance. Never Liked Odd Numbers Anyways...

Sport can be cruel. After riding the rollercoaster of emotions over the last 17 weeks and believing I was well in the road to recovery - I was clobbered with another road block. The ankle has consistently been sore to run on, throughout my rehab - albeit, at a low level around a 3/10 pain. I had been informed that some soreness was to be expected so I blocked out the discomfort. Over the last two weeks, the pain had been becoming increasingly unpleasant and inflamed the more I increased the impact. I attempted my first track session last week but the soreness was too much and so I retired the session after a total of two miles. I was clearly dispirited that the ankle had reacted in such a poor way - it cemented in my head that the World Championships were unquestionably, no longer an option. I set my sights on being able to return jogging again, pain free, with the possibility of racing some flat races towards the end of the season. Running pain free is beyond doubt, something people take for granted. I've grown into an angry old man. Driving past members of the general public out jogging, I get an overwhelming feeling of jealousy towards them - people I don't even know! Yet, I just want to knock them out and steal their ankles to replace my own! 

Initially, I was lead to believe this injury would take near 4 weeks. It then quickly turned out to be a little more serious than we originally thought and the time doubled. 8 weeks slowly transpired into 15 weeks. Mentally, it's exhausting to feel you are at the end, to then be told differently. You begin your journey trudging on the upwards slope and just as you're about to reach the summit - you are quickly plummeted back down again. This has happened several times over the past three months but last week sucker punched me a final blow. 

Two days before I was scheduled to travel to Park City, Utah - the UKA medical team arranged another MRI, as the ankle had flared up once more. I had been getting a lot of pain around the joint of my ankle, shooting into my Achilles and plantar-fascia. I knew it was bad news after being called in early the following morning. The Physio and one of the endurance coaches quickly flittered out the room when I appeared - it was apparent that this meeting was going to end in tears. The doctor told me the disastrous news, that the fracture in my ankle was now fully extended and in a much worse position than the initial scan. I still can't quite get my hear around it. After spending seven weeks in a boot and only beginning to impact at week 9 onwards - I found it very tough to accept. Who manages to break their ankle MORE, with no impact? Me, supposedly! I also feel like my body is approximately 80% milk, after living off a high calcium diet over the last few months and dosing up on calcium tablets - I swear I'm going to start urinating milk soon! 

I have now been advised to return to the dreaded moon boot for a further 8-10 weeks, making it a stable fashion item in my wardrobe. They have recommended rest (as in.. Sit on the sofa) for three months. As you can imagine - that sentence went into one ear, did some somersaults around my head and exited very quickly out the other. It's crystal clear that the World Championships are no longer a realistic aim but I would prefer to continue cross training or at least Aqua jogging, in order to maintain my sanity and perhaps even allow me to race a few late season, flat races. The steeplechase will not be an option for a long time.

The UKA doctor stated that I 'was very difficult to work with', which upsets me a little. I am certainly no diva and never demand anything from them. I am very introvert and like to do things on my own when problems arise with injuries - doing all my hard work behind the scenes, rather than floating around the HiPac Performance Centre. I admit, I ask a lot of questions and query their advice meticulously but it's only because ultimately, it is my career on the line. They remain within their jobs, regardless of what happens to me and the conveyor belt of athletes continues moving, regardless of where I've fallen off. Although I am no doctor, I feel I am of a high enough intelligence to request each and every detail in-depth, rather than be shown a picture of an ankle and told to rest. I am genuinely interested in the details, not only with my own injuries but with other athletes - it fascinates me. I would like to thank UKA for helping me arrange my medical scans over the last few months and realise it's a frustrating job looking after a broken athlete, who only wants definite answers. Sometimes there isn't an answer to give but it's definitely taught me a lesson, regarding the protocols I will personally take the next time an injury stops me in my tracks.

Discovering that things are a little more serious than the previous assumption - is tremendously discouraging. It's the first time I've felt really deflated and actually questioned my time in the sport. Not that I once intended to quit, but it really made me think about my future, after athletics. For the first week, I was very upset and completely alone in Loughborough to deal with the situation. I told my dad that I was considering going back to university or finding a job but continuing with my athletics as a hobby - no pressures or expectations - run for fun. But after the initial upset, my determination kicked in. I was straight back into the pool with my moon boot in tow. I'm a determined little bugger and not prepared to put anything in front of my athletics just yet. I really want to give this a serious go, with Rio 2016 on the horizon. I have looked for some external advice and depending on the results of my scans - I may need surgery in order to heal the bone. After 17 weeks, the bone undeniably should have healed rather than regress but unfortunately, that particular area is notoriously problematic to recover. I will find out my fate next week. The specialist I have been speaking to, stated that I need to be certain that I don't find myself in the same situation, another 17 weeks down the line. He ended the conversation on something that really resonated with me; 

Lesson learned. 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

National Hummus Day

After refusing to eat the stuff for years, I've slowly become a Hummus addict. Dealing with an injury, which doesn't allow you to impact - gives you a lot more free time, in between gruelling cross training sessions and being home completely alone for the last fortnight, has given me full reigns of the kitchen!

I have never been an athlete to focus much on their diet but over the last few months - I've tried really hard to make a few, minor changes and become a little bit healthier! My first aim was to have some healthy home-made snacks, ready for me to grab, as soon as I finish training - rather than heading to the supermarket in a hungry rampage. 

Last week, I made normal hummus but after buying beetroot for my lunch and having no idea what to do with the leftovers, I found a recipe online for Beetroot Hummus. It gives it a fantastic pink colour and was extremely easy to make...

-Half a tin of chickpeas
-One small beetroot
-Small clove of garlic
-Half of a small red pepper
-Table spoon of Tahini 
-Tea spoon of cumin
-Sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Nike Miler's Event

It's not often you get invited to an event, taking place in an underground car park but last week, I attended the launch of the Nike Milers. The location was fantastic - in a super-car only, car park - hidden away underneath Hyde Park, in central London. They had mapped out a mile long course, weaving around the cars; boosted by bright, coloured lights and loud, booming music. The whole evening was hosted by none other than, Steve Cram and Paula Radcliffe - so as you can imagine - it was a running geek's heaven! The guests were specifically invited from all different commodities but with the one passion, bringing everyone together - running!

The mile is such an significant distance, yet not everyone knows what time they are capable of clocking, so it was a unique experience, to allow all the guests to record their first ever personal best. Even for me, as a longer distance athlete, the mile is pivotal. I log miles, plenty of them... But in my diary, I note down every mile split as a gauge to make sure I'm not going either too fast or too slow - giving me an indication of pace and speed. It's a huge reference marker in my training diary to compare, week on week.

The night involved a quick Q&A with myself, sandwiched between two athletics legends - which was slightly daunting but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless. Unfortunately due to my injury, I couldn't take part in the mile but was lead cheerleader for the evening. The elite athletes all completed their mile around the car park course, in order to give an insight to what speed really looks like (although they jogged around at tempo pace, as they are currently in peak training for the forthcoming summer track season!!). It was then the guests turn to see how fast they could go! 

The whole initiative is a brilliant idea. People love running but when they hear the word 'track' - a look of horror fills their face. The general public are more than happy to take part in their local park run or local 5k road race but I would struggle to find a participant, willing to take part in a track race! The athletics track is seen to be elite - for people who take running seriously - but it shouldn't be. The track should be open and welcoming to people, of all ages and abilities and so I hope this Nike Milers Club, really embraces that and encourages people to the world of track! Obviously, not all miles have to be clocked on the track - that's the beauty of running but it would be nice to see more people enthused by those wonderful 8 lanes! 

Back in Dundee at my local club, we had two marathon, fun runners who were constantly out training on the roads and feared they would be 'too slow for track sessions with a group' but eventually, they took the plunge and joined us. Even though they were 'bringing up the rear of the group' (their words, not mine!!' - they absolutely loved it. It was something different and they enjoyed the varying distances, speeds and recoveries. The track made them feel quick and they were becoming faster each week. Amazingly, they managed to knock minutes off their marathon PBs and were thrilled! It makes a huge difference being part of a team or group - everyone wants the same outcome, to run faster than they've ever done before! 

Track is important. The mile is crucial... But being part of something is bigger than anything.

Nike Elite kit 2015

The wait for the new, Elite Nike Race uniform is always an exciting one. I always hear snip bits of what colour scheme people think may be used for the 2015 season and this year; Nike have got it bang on! I loved last years pink print but 2015 will definitely make the athletes stand out - bright orange, leopard print! ��

Elite Kit 2015

The Mamba's have been my favourite spike to run in. Although, they have now improved them slightly to have a sock-like feel around the ankle! Unfortunately, I most likely won't get the oppurtunity to be wearing the racing kit this summer but if this isn't motivation to get back ASAP - then I don't know what is! ��

Nike Zoom Streak Flats and Mamba Spikes 

Sunday, 3 May 2015


Last Sunday was the return of the famous London Marathon. It's always such a significant date on the calendar for everyone - from elite athletes to charity runners. It brings the world of elite sport to the masses which is why it's so exhilarating. I love watching it each year and it never ceases to amaze me, the magnitude of people getting on their trainers, to run 26.2miles... Not just a 10minute jog or a trip to the gym.. 26 bloody miles! It's an unbelievable feat - not forgetting how much money is raised between these individuals for charity. 

This time around there was an added buzz. It was the legendary Paula Radcliffe's last 'fairly competitive' marathon and a farewell, to end things on her own terms. It was quite emotional watching her cross the line - albeit in such a phenomenal time for someone who's been struggling with injury! It shows the real grit of Paula as an athlete and the phenomenal talent she possess. I've followed Paula's career for as long as I can remember and as a strong female athlete - she's been a brilliant role model for me. Her stance against drugs has always resonated with me and I admire the way she voices her opinions on the matter, instead of shying away from the issues. 

I've been extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by strong women - more significantly, my own mother and coach. It still blows my mind to think that she won the London Marathon back in 1996. Her winning time was a good 6 minutes faster than our current British ladies. I always wonder why our distance athletes haven't progressed over the last 10 years - especially when back in my mums day, she didn't have the same privileges we have access to today. Perhaps that's the issue - things are too easy for athletes nowadays and processes are over complicated.

Paula's 2.15 marathon is by far the hardest world record to date. It's an unbelievable achievement and something I'll always remember watching on the TV. Unfortunately, another strong memory that identifies with me, is her Athens Olympics. Paula was a set favourite and yet, sadly, it ended in tears at the road side. It verifies to me, that even if you are doing everything right and one of the best athletes in the world - sometimes it is still isn't enough. Luck really does have to be on your side!

My mum has always been very low-key about her achievements. Her medals have always been hidden away and I had never been shown them, until that Olympic Marathon. Watching Paula in tears at the side of the road - really made my mum truly appreciate how great her achievement of an Olympic silver medal was. In the past, she had concealed it away - upset because her eyes were set on gold and she felt like silver was a sub-par performance... Which is ridiculous! I'm glad she finally came to her senses because in athletics - nothing should be taken for granted! 

It was poignant moment watching Paula cross the line on her terms and with a smile on her face.

I'm very blessed to have received some advice from Paula, over the last few years and especially with this most recent injury. Her knowledge is invaluable and it's immensely helpful to discover how she built up from injury, with use of the alter G and other methods of cross training - to go on to superior performances. 

Congratulations to all the runners who made it to the start line - a life-long achievement and memory. 

Now it's time to plan your next one! 

Once a runner, always a runner! 

Friday, 17 April 2015

Balancing Act - Injuries.

Injures are inevitable - not only in elite sport but persistent throughout all levels of 'sports' down to the generic person popping along to the gym. Sadly, in elite sport there is evidently a higher risk of injury, as we are constantly trying to propel ourselves beyond the limit. Athletics in general, is a tightrope – you are always a few inches away from plummeting off and having to grind your way back up to the top once more! Each injury is an immense learning curve. It allows you time to truly assess things and implement changes in order to reduce the chance of something similar from occurring again!
Stellenbosch Track

This winter had been my most consistent yet. Everything was going extremely well – perhaps a little too swimmingly for that time of year. I was fit and prepared to get the indoor season underway and keen to trim down all of my personal bests. Woefully, it wasn't to be! After travelling out South Africa for a training camp with the British Athletics team – I fell ill on the first day! I couldn't appear to shift the illness and regrettably it ate into almost 10 full days of training. Training hard and consistently – weakens the immune system – which makes the body highly susceptible to picking up bugs! Airplanes seem to be my nemesis and I find it very challenging to not fall ill, particularly after long flights. I'm going to invest in a mask, that Chinese Tourists are renowned for wearing, in the hope that this reduces my possibility of contracting viruses! It may sound a little excessive but sickness really does impact an athletes program and i'm sure it'll be a great conversation starter. A simple cold virus can be gone within a week but lie dormant, within the body, until an athlete hits another arduous week of training. It then may decide to rear it's ugly head afresh! I experienced this the entire 2014 year and found it highly frustrating to deal with.
Happier times in South Africa

On my comeback from illness, I was perhaps a little too eager to restore normal routine again. There was also a vast disparity between the surfaces I was running on - out in Stellenbosch - in comparison to what I ordinarily run on, in Loughborough. I primarily keep to the gravel canal paths and road, whereas in SA – there were not many safe routes that I could go out on, alone, and so I was restricted to running all my weekly mileage on a very soft, grass loop. I found that the spongy grass truly did sap all the energy out of my legs, especially after illness. On my Sunday long run, I unluckily twisted my ankle very sharply, which ended my run abruptly. Although I didn't think about it too much afterwards - the following morning, I woke up with a precise needlelike, nervy pain in my left ankle. Again, I tried not to concentrate on the pain excessively. As an athlete, training twice a day – every day – aches and pains are part and parcel of the sport, so it is easy to not deliberate too much and batter on with the day. However, perhaps a mistake on my behalf – I attempted to carry on with my scheduled track session that evening. After being blown around the track, by Stellenbosch’s 29 miles per hour winds, with my spaghetti legs– it was safe to say my ankle had popped it's little clogs. I could barely walk. Promptly, the decision was made to hop home as soon as possible for a scan and await the news. It didn't come as too much of a surprise to hear the ankle was broken but it was still a colossal kick in the teeth.

It's always the same regarding bad news, especially an injury. Running is not only my job – it's what I love doing – so it's challenging when such a huge aspect of your life is removed. 'Normal' people never really understand my attachment to running but when you babble to other people who share a passion for running – they fully relate and understand how vexing it can be! Without fail, I initially have a few days where i'm really down-beat about everything. I would argue with any living soul, within a 10 metre proximity to me, that the sky is NOT blue or that a crow isn't black...but once this passes, my mind then switches into over drive. I think this may be a standard McColgan trait! I then direct all of my focus on demanding cross training sessions. I repeatedly remind myself, how valuable all the cumulative cross training will be once I am back doing what I love to do – running!

Manchester Velodrome
I was told at first it would be 4-6 weeks out but after further scans and investigations the doctors realised the ankle was unquestionably fractured. This then extended my healing time in a 'moon boot' to 8-10 weeks. I tried my best to rock the 'moon boot and jeans look; but it's an acquired taste. Mentally, the aspect of being injured is sometimes frustrating to deal with - when you believe there is only a week to go and can see light at the end of the tunnel, it's a hard knock to be told you're actually only half way! The doctor was a nervous man breaking the news to me but he escaped unscathed. For the entire duration of the injury, I was allowed to aqua jog each day. Slowly, I built up to the watt bike before finally adding the elliptical cross trainer after 8 weeks. You wouldn't think adding in another form of cross training could have such a positive impact but my quads were starting to rival the size of Chris Hoy's and it was a delightful break from cycling. It's safe to say I won't be switching sports any time soon and I have a whole new respect for cyclists (as I try to squeeze myself into a pair of jeans that once used to be baggy!).

It's taken me almost 3 months to finally get back running outside – but even that is very limited. Presently, I have progressed to running twice a week outside with all my other training being supplemented on the cross trainer, bike, pool and alter G. I did however, make the huge mistake that many people suffer from, when they find out they're injured - I unreservedly flogged myself cross training for around 8 days before having a colossal crash in energy levels. I was significantly fatigued by attempting to train hard, twice a day, every day – which clearly isn't sustainable... but it was my way of dealing with the initial frustration and the 'why me' sympathy stage! Subsequently, I was quick to wise up and started making smarter decisions towards balancing my cross training and allowing myself enough time to recover. It's been a huge relief getting outside again, releasing my hair from the Marge Simpson beehive, that's been permanently positioned on top of my head and allowing fresh air to hit my skin rather than the constant drench of sweat. Cross training isn't attractive – so kudos to anyone whom can make it look relatively pleasant!

Channeling my inner Marge Simpson. 
I've had quite a few people email me regarding their own injuries, particularly - what cross training sessions I do in order to try and maintain fitness and how to keep motivated during extended spells of being injured.

I'm very fortunate that when i'm cross training, I can completely switch off. I would go as far as saying it's a special skill! I zone out, into my own little world, staring at the wall and barely flinch when someone enters the room. I put every ounce of my energy into it because every minute sweating it out, is bringing me closer to returning to what I love the most.

1. I would encourage anyone to acquire whatever music they enjoy listening to. Weirdly enough, I don't listen to music during track sessions but for some reason I find it helps me enormously whilst slogging out sessions on the cross trainer. A loud, fast beat - forces your legs to move to the same rhythm and speed. As you tire, throughout the session – you do your best to keep the leg turnover fast in time with the music. I am also partial to weird documentaries during my easy hour cross trains – Transgender Children, Wild OAP's, Dog with 8 legs – you name it, i've most certainly watched it.
Blood, sweat and zero tears. 

  1. Make some goals – this will assist with motivation. In the back of my mind, I have my main objective of my year. I keep it there permanently and constantly reflect on it during the hours and hours spent cross training. I never tell people my long term goals or aims – it's my secret and what i'm constantly working hard in order to achieve. By telling someone, you're disclosing something personal, something that's confidential to you. No one can tell you, 'you can't do that' or that it's 'unachievable' because they don't know what your personal goal is and it's completely unique to YOU! Not everyone can be an Olympic Champion but it doesn't have to be on such a grand scale. Making a school team, completing one park run a month or taking a few seconds off your marathon time. It can be anything. It's also crucial to have some minor goals and aims along the way. These are markers that I make in my head. Perhaps something like, I want to start back training on the track again by X day of X month or I want to be able to race X by X. If it is achieved then I'll focus on the next goal – if i've not been able to achieve it, I don't dwell on it too much, re-asses and make a new one.
  1. Rehab, rehab, rehab. Injuries give you a vital opportunity to correct things or become stronger in different areas. In the past, I have always neglected that time and just purely focused on maintaining my cardio fitness. This time around has been a little different. The majority of my focus still remains on cardio but I have also brought in two strength sessions in the form of a circuit, alongside balance drills, foot drills and core almost daily – I still won't be winning any press up contests anytime soon... but it's progress! Being injured turns out to be a lot more time consuming compared to my usual training routine. A typical 5mile run transpires into...travelling to the gym, an hour slog on the cross trainer followed by rehab drills, stretching, barefoot drills alongside physiotherapy and foot mobility etc etc. By the time I look at my watch, a good 4 hours of my life has flown by! It can end up becoming very intense and devour your time like a vulture but it's important to really implement some time out. Both my boyfriend and housemate are athletes and also currently injured, however they are much more laid back with their routines – which is a huge help. They force me to rationalise things and not obsess about it all, because ultimately what's done is done! It makes no sense to live in the past and dwell on what may, or may not have been a mistake. Focus on the future and things you CAN implement or change. It really isn't the end of the world having some time off and injury is not going to change life in the longer term! AKA – CHILL THE HELL OUT, YOU'RE 24 EILISH. I'm a worrier though – it's another lovely McColgan trait.
    Spending time with the important people. <3

  2. Physiotherapy – it can be awfully expensive but depending on the injury it may be vital. I am very lucky to receive regular treatment through UKA. It allows the mobility in my foot and ankle to be maintained whilst I try to return to full training again. If you can't afford regular treatment then make sure you have a vigorous stretching routine in place. Even something as simple as foam rolling 10minutes before bed each night, can make a huge difference when you are making the transition from cross training back to running again – (and it makes you sound really cool to all your non-running friends....). Biking especially, shortens the quad muscles and can really force them to overwork so it's particularly important to hold the length in these muscles as you return to running.
    My sneaky flatmate catching me at work... 

  3. Supplements. In the past, I have never taken any supplements or medication other than the odd protein shake every now and again whilst training on altitude camps. With all the recent news of contaminated supplements – I am the type of athlete who is scared to take a plain paracetamol tablet when I think I may be knocking on God's door! I once spent 40 minutes in Sainsbury's (there are other supermarkets available) scouring over all the medicines, texting my doctor, to double check that plain Ibuprofen was definitely OK! Over the last few months, under the advice of the nutritionist – I have decided to start supplementing with Calcium tablets daily and Omega 3 Oils. I have no idea whether this will make any substantial difference to my actual injury but I do hope that it may reduce the chances of picking up a further bone injury in the future! Only time will tell. These tablets have all been batch tested by Informed Sport and are on a regular basis consumed by many athletes – HealthSpan Elite. I have also made changes to my day-to-day diet in order to improve nutrition and give my body the best possible chance of recovery after sessions. After an exceptionally hard session, I have reverted to taking a scoop of the protein powder in my standard recovery fruit smoothie – PAS Strawberry Protein Powder. It's the only powder i've been able to drink without wanting to gag – so that's a bonus!
There's never been too much of a focus on what i've eaten and when.. but over the last few months I have made a conscious effort to try and eat cleaner. Even if it only gives me an extra one percent than i've had previously – after being injured for the past three months... I need every accumulated percent I can acquire! My coach has always been very influential on how much diet can affect an athletes performance but it's entirely up to the athlete to finally make the ultimate judgement on things. It's one of those ' I TOLD YOU THAT FIVE YEARS AGO' scenarios. I now make sure every morning before training, I have a big bowl of porridge, mixed with normal milk, some almond milk, topped with banana and berries. Previously, I have always refused to eat anything other than sugary cereal but as a professional athlete – that's ridiculous! - I needed to make some minor changes to my current diet. Food is the fuel to your body – putting the essential fuel into it will effectively make it preform better, so why not make the minor change and see?

It's important to remember there is always a finish line. Things may feel like they are never improving and that you are stuck within a viscous cycle but even a one percent improvement, is still an improvement! All of the hard work that is done behind the scenes, whilst you are injured, will eventually pay off... but what if it doesn’t? Well, at least you can say you gave it your best shot and have no regrets!

Typical cross training week for me:

 Two easy ellipticals. HR zone easy – 140 average

 am. Watt Bike session, e.g. 40 minutes of 45 seconds hard – 15 recovery. HR max 186
am - Circuits

pm. Easy elliptical - HR zone easy – 140 average

 am - Aqua jogging session, lower HR – 155 average, 2minutes on 30 off.

Pm - Easy Elliptical, HR zone easy – 140 average

am - Bike tempo - HR zone 170 average. 45minutes-1 hour of 3minute-2minute-1minute (continuous, no recovery)

pm - Easy elliptical - HR zone easy – 140 average

  Two easy elliptical - HR zone easy – 140 average
am – Circuits


am - Elliptical session, eg. 40 minutes of 90 hard 30 easy. - HR max 186

pm - Easy elliptical - HR zone easy – 140 average

 Two easy elliptical - HR zone easy – 140 average

This was typical training of around week 7 after my injury – all completed whilst wearing the ever fashionable 'moon boot'. Once I was allowed out of the boot and walking properly again in trainers – we introduced the Alter G treadmill around 10/11 weeks a few times and then finally outdoor running by 13 weeks. I am still very limited to the amount of running, as the pain within the ankle has not fully subsided. It's a little discouraging, as after 13 weeks, I would of hoped the foot would be totally healed, but unfortunately that's not the case. It's slowly turning into the never-ending saga. I've made the decision that I can no longer take anymore time off – if I want to try and get myself back running this summer and possibly make the World Championships in August. - then I need to start pronto. It's a long shot – but next month is crucial as to whether that is achievable or not. At least I know, I have given it absolutely everything to try and accomplish that.
First session back - thrown into the deep end with Gemma Steel!

If anything, the injury has reinforced to me how much I want this. Running is all I have ever known. From October to December, I had managed to get myself into the best physical shape I have ever been in – so it has reconfirmed the goals I want to achieve this summer because I know they are possible and within my grasp. I've always been told 'running has many more lows than highs' but that the lows are often forgotten in favour of the highs– so this is just another obstacle to hurdle.

'Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see...'
I hope this answers anyones questions – if you guys have anymore then please post them below and I will do my best to respond or write another blog answering them!  

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Tooth Fairy

I remember as a kid being dragged to the dentist by my parents to get fitted for a brace but I cried hysterically and never went through with it. At the time, I was young and naïve. I thought I would 'look silly' wearing them, which is ridiculous considering the majority of school kids are fitted out with some metal! It's been greatly regretted every since. My teeth are not horrible or crooked by any stretch of the imagination and I have never had anyone comment negatively towards my smile – but it's something I have always wanted to get sorted. My front two teeth overlap slightly.. again, it's nothing major but I would be much happier with them a little straighter. If you can improve a part of yourself that has always been a creeping thought at the back of your mind – then why not!?

I'm extremely excited to join forces with Smile Plus Dental in Edinburgh and with the use of Invisalign – hopefully I can get a nice straight set of gnashers!

The whole process has completely amazed me. Invisalign isn't like a normal brace – which is perfect for my life as a busy athlete. Invisalign straightens teeth using a series of nearly invisible, removable aligners that are custom-made specifically for your teeth. As you replace each aligner every two weeks, your teeth will move – little by little, week by week, gradually moving towards the projected final position.

Additionally, There is a much lower number of dental check ups compared to normal braces which is useful considering I can be away for months on end. The braces can also be sent out to my training camps abroad if I am not at home.

Furthermost, they are removable which gives you the choice rather than them being permanently fixed into your teeth. Obviously, in order to gain the best results – they are advised to be worn at all times. Invisalign is much more comfortable than normal 'train tracks' with no wires or brackets against the side of your mouth but can take a little getting used to at the beginning.

I am extremely excited to get started with my new brace – however this is for the long haul. With a projected plan of 18 months it's definitely a big commitment to undertake but one I am very eager to begin!

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Drug Called Sport

Choice. To willingly select an outcome. A yes or no. Everyone has to make them. Children, teenagers, adults. From a young age the word 'Drugs' didn't mean much to me – other than – 'say no.' - perhaps a little naïve on my behalf but the situation never occurred all throughout my teenage years. However, the word has manifested it's way into my life in a way I had never dreamed of. As an athlete competing at Olympic level, I regularly have to give drug tests in order to pave the way for clean sport. The often televised Diamond League athletics meetings are plagued by athletes returning from bans due to failed tests. Some athletes not only making the wrong choice once... but twice! During these meets, social media is rife with the words 'cheat', 'drugs' and 'ban'. Certain athletes are trending for negative reasons rather than the superb performances. I remember as a kid watching Paula Radcliffe parade around the track with banners protesting for stronger bans against drug cheats. I never really fully acknowledged it at the time but now it resonates in the back of my mind. She was extremely outspoken all throughout her career and a true role model for younger athletes taking up the sport. Cheating should never be an option.

All sports contain cheats. People want to bypass their way to success and unfortunately drugs are the quickest way to do so. I am under no misconception that these athletes don't also work hard – they have to – but they are unquestionably gaining a major advantage. Currently, there is no deterrent for athletes not to cheat other than their own moral fibre. Almost an 'Lance Armstrong Syndrome' – some athletes believe all their competitors are dirty and so perhaps lightens the blow in their own minds. They return to the sport having served their ban whilst the other athletes and race meet organisers don’t bat an eyelid - throwing themselves straight into the limelight again with several running faster than ever. This is by no means an attack on certain athletes – i'm sure they're are many an athlete whom aren't as squeaky clean as they are portrayed. I'm sure many of them are polite and kind individuals – convicted, cheating or not. I am also under no illusion that every single person makes mistakes. Human error is always going to creep in under certain circumstances, particularly with the added extras of money and championship titles – egos possibly take over.

When I started competing at a slightly higher level in athletics, I met Dwain Chambers at my first ever international. We were team mates and he was one of the biggest names on our team. I had so many questions that I wanted to ask – but I had never met him before and he had no clue who I was. After about 5 minutes of questions buzzing around my head – I blurted a few out. He was chatting about how he found it difficult being away from his young children. I asked if he thought his young boy would become an athlete and he replied that he would love him to take up the sport. I then asked how he would go around explaining to his little boy that he cheated. It was perhaps a bit of a strong and forward question to ask but I genuinely wanted to know. Dwain was extremely down to earth and open which I didn't really expect. I had grown up thinking drug cheats were villains and horrible people – again a very naïve statement to think. Dwain couldn't of been any friendlier and truly made me feel part of the team. He admitted that he felt it would be the toughest thing that he's ever gone through. To tell his young boy, who idolises him and looks up to him so much – that he cheated - he took the easy route. For me, this is another huge contributing factor against cheating and it confuses me how people can lie and deceive in order to gain the benefits. Lying to their own family and loved ones – instead of admitting that they weren't good enough to make it to the very top. Dwain genuinely did come across as a nice guy and I enjoyed being able to ask him questions on all sorts. Drug cheats aren't murderers. They get distracted easily by the bright shining lights of success and the affluent thought that they will never get caught. I can see how it's easy for certain personalities to be swayed but for me, it's a mistake I wouldn't be willing to make. Drug cheats should be banned for life, examples made, purely to try and stop other people from making the same mistake. Reduced sentences should only be offered after receiving enough substantial on how they got it, how they took it, the circle of people whom knew - every single detail of their scheme publicised. 

Drugs are something that have personally never entered my radar. I have been competing since I was 12. I've been to the Olympics, World Championships and Commonwealth Games but they are something I've never come across. Maybe I am not a good enough standard to have ever been offered or know the right people. I find it difficult to get my head around why people make the wrong choice. Sport is difficult. Being successful at it – is never going to be easy. When money becomes involved people become more monstrous. For example, a drug cheat who is back competing can walk away with $10,000 for every Diamond League victory, an undisclosed appearance fee and a $40,000 jackpot win for the series. Meaning other clean athletes perhaps further down the field receive jack all. It tallies up to quite an impressive amount of money. This also doesn’t include private corporate sponsors. Yet when an athlete get caught doping they don’t have to give back any of their prize money directly to competitors. Yes, they loose medals and perhaps give back a percentage of winnings but it is never anywhere near what they have actually made. They can continue training through the duration of their ban wether it be a few months, 18 months or 2 years and pop up again for the next major championships alongside all the benefits they have previously gained from being on the juice.

Would I love to be an Olympic Champion? Of course I bloody would. But would I cheat my way to the top? Not a chance in hell. With my mother being a former athlete, she has always brought us up firmly against drugs in sport. She missed many a medal and perhaps thousands of missing prize money due to athletes who had an air of suspicion concerning them. Ultimately though, they were never caught and so were 'clean'.

The current anti-doping system is good but not great. The blood passport has definitely been a huge step forward in possibly scaring some athletes but unfortunately the doctors and the scientists are always one step ahead. UK Anti-doping have been extremely regimental in testing me since I got added to the whereabouts system last October – being tested every month. But regrettably, other countries aren’t quite as strict. For those who don't know, the whereabouts system is where an athlete is permitted to give a one hour slot (time and location) of where they are going to be each day – along with an overnight address. If the testers turn up to the hour slot you have allocated and the athlete is not there – it's a failed test. Three failed tests results in a ban. These tests are known as in-hour tests. A tester can turn up at your door unannounced – an out-of-hours test – however, if you are not there, it doesn't matter. If you are there,you take the test. It sounds relatively straight forward but it's actually quite a difficult thing to get used to. Initially, I used to set my time slot at 10pm (because I knew I would be awake and hear the knock on the door) but various times I have been close to forgetting about my slot as i've nipped out to Tesco or gone to the cinema – something so small but ultimately being forgetful can get you into a lot of trouble! I find it much easier allocating 6 or 7am as I know I will definitely be in my house and most probably still in bed!

Out in Kenya, all funded GB athletes were tested by anti-doping whom had sent out testers all the way to Kenya but alas the same treatment wasn’t granted to other athletes from different nations. An Olympic Champion and Olympic Silver medallist were both in the camp and yet neither were tested (as far as we are aware) – this completely baffles me. The athletes in question were of a much higher standard than myself and yet they aren't tested. Similarly, in the first quarter of this year - I was tested every single month with a few extra tests after my races. Justin Gatlin (convicted twice for drugs) has been tested three times whilst Tyson Gay (convicted for drugs) has only been tested ONCE! This confuses me to no end. Surely these people should be targeted and tested on a weekly basis just to keep them on their toes, perhaps slightly scaremonger them into thinking differently and from committing the same error again! I have absolutely no qualms about being tested day in day out, I am all for clean sport but I believe all athletes should be treated equally. Something needs to be done in order to make sure every nation is singing from the same hymn sheet.