Eilish McColgan column: GB athlete qualifies for the 5000 metres final in Doha

Great Britain's Eilish McColgan (Credit: Getty Images)
Great Britain's Eilish McColgan (Credit: Getty Images)

During the Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, Great British long-distance runner Eilish McColgan is writing exclusively for Yahoo Sport UK.

Athletics may be an individual sport. But when you stand on the start line of a major championships, there’s a sense of belonging. You are no longer competing for yourself.

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You are competing for your family, your coach, your team and more importantly your country. There’s something magical about it but of course it brings an added pressure.

The general vibe amongst the GB team is always really upbeat. You want to see your fellow teammates compete to the best of their abilities because it brings a boost of morale throughout the camp. There’s nothing more exciting than watching someone win a medal or put in a PB performance.

Eilish McColgan celebrates silver at the 2018 Europeans (Credit: Getty Images)
Eilish McColgan celebrates silver at the 2018 Europeans (Credit: Getty Images)

It inspires you to give it your best shot. There’s also a mutual appreciation across the squad because you understand firsthand exactly what it’s taken to get to that point. Through the ups and downs of elite sport, every individual on the team has their own personal story of making it to the start line.

Having some medal contenders within the squad is a real boost. The likes of Dina Asher-Smith and Laura Muir head into these championships with real potential to be named a world champion. For the rest of us, it’s inspiring. And even more so for the next generation of youngsters watching on the TV.

“Every individual on the team has their own personal story of making it to the start line.”

Personalities certainly aren’t short on the team. I always find it interesting, watching how athletes prepare for a major race. Some individuals are the life and soul – cracking jokes and messing around is their way of keeping calm.

Whilst others wander around discreetly, maintaining a strict focus in order to perform at their best. These striking differences are what make us human, everyone is different and everyone is unique.

A few athletes may go on a social media blackout, restricting themselves from the outside world, while others continue as normal – maintaining a routine that works for them.

McColgan will be competing in the 5000 metres at the World Championships.
McColgan will be competing in the 5000 metres at the World Championships.

I suppose it comes down to how well you can block out distractions. Televised championships are where the armchair critics come out in force. So if Simon sitting at home in his pants, eating M&Ms, giving you the lowdown on your performance is something you don’t want to read, then it's probably best you take a step back and switch off!

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My days before racing are spent predominantly in bed, because sleeping is a serious talent of mine. It gets to the point where sometimes my roommates have to ask the team management if I’m still alive!

When I’m not sleeping, I’m watching hours and hours of documentaries, mainly murder. You would expect this genre to keep me awake until the little hours, but I sleep like a bear, It’s just my way of relaxing.

The World Championships may not be as flamboyant as the Olympic Games, but every athlete will have tunnel vision on the Khalifa Stadium. As athletics is the only sport competing, the entire event is on a much smaller scale.

There is no athlete village and definitely no free McDonald’s! Every team has a designated hotel across the city and within that hotel, the team are expected to wear squad kit 24/7. Our accreditation passes hang around our necks like dog collars, identifying us from one and another. It’s Crufts on a human level.

McColgan feels the World Championships can be used as a stepping stone to next year's Olympics.
McColgan feels the World Championships can be used as a stepping stone to next year's Olympics.

However, unlike Crufts, appearance means nothing, and performance is everything. There are many athletes who come in ranked as medal contenders but with the Championships being so late in the year, rankings may be of less importance.

I think we will see a lot of surprising performances, with some big names making an early departure in the first round – with other lesser-known names sneaking a medal!

Performance will all come down to who has peaked correctly. Just like poaching an egg; turn the heat up too early and you overcook things, but if you don’t quite get the gas going early enough, you arrive undercooked as a soggy mess wondering where it all went wrong. Timing and peaking isn’t easy, but it’s vital for performance.

For many athletes, the World Championships serves up as a stepping stone towards the next Olympic Games. It’s a little daunting to think that in under ten months time, Tokyo 2020 will be knocking on our doors.

The Olympic Games is the pinnacle of our sport, the team that everyone dreams about, but Doha remains a crucial stepping stone. These Championships will serve as a mark in the sand to see what needs to be done in less than a year’s time: What do we need to work on? What do we need to change? How do we get better for next year?

Athletics is all about progression and making improvements each year to become a better athlete. For some Doha 2019 will be the Championship they’ve been dreaming of; for others it will be a stepping stone towards bigger and better things.

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