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Runner McColgan says heart problem won't hold her back

The daughter of former double Commonwealth gold medallist Liz McColgan has revealed she has been battling a heart irregularity as she aims to emulate her mother's success at the forthcoming Glasgow games.

IN TRAINING: Eilish McColgan will compete in the steeplechase at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
IN TRAINING: Eilish McColgan will compete in the steeplechase at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Eilish McColgan, 23, who will compete in the steeplechase for Team Scotland at Hampden Park, said she first suffered from ­palpitations at the age of 13, but has ruled out taking beta blockers or surgery as it would scupper her chances of success.

Her mother, now Liz McColgan-Nuttal, is a former world 10,000m champion who won golds at the Edinburgh games in 1986 and Auckland in 1990, where she also gained a bronze in the 3,000 metres. She was also a silver medallist at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Mrs McColgan-Nuttall, who coaches in Qatar and also trains her daughter, said: "The problem may have been there all her days. But when she was here her heart went out of beat for 36 hours, and they couldn't get it back. She wasn't very well and it was a bit worrying."

McColgan said her heart problem is similar to that which affected Olympic breaststroke silver medallist Michael Jamieson. The Glasgow swimmer, who is also one of the main contenders in the pool at the Games, has lent support and advice.

McColgan was forced to cut short a trip to Qatar to see her mother when the problem became clear to UK Athletics, after she finished 10th in last year's World Championships. The event also saw her become the fourth fastest contender for the 3,000 metres ­steeplechase at the Games, which begin on July 23.

She was urged to return home immediately by the sport's governing body for tests. She added: "UK Athletics have been really good. They sent me to specialists, but the guy does not really know why it happened, what caused it, or whether it will happen again."

She added: "The only way they can stop it ever happening again is to take medication every single day, but the problem is that beta blockers would slow the heart so much that you effectively just become slow in general life.

"I could go out for runs, but I wouldn't be an athlete any more. I would have to just forget about that. So obviously he has said that isn't an option."

She is also concerned about having a valve inserted into the heart to prevent the palpitations, describing it as "quite an invasive procedure".

She said: "I have tablets in my bag which I carry with me all day, pretty much. They reverse it back straight away." She added that she also had to make in contact with her specialist in the event of experiencing symptoms.

Fellow Scotland star Jamieson's problem emerged after he pushed himself too hard in training, sending his heart into an irregular rhythm.

McColgan said her problem was similar, adding: "It might never happen again, and he is back in full training. And he's obviously going to the Commonwealth Games, just like me. I texted him and asked a few ­questions.

"He was really helpful, and has had absolutely no issues since. I am pretty confident, ­hopefully, that it was a one-off. It affected a good few weeks' training and we've had to alter and adjust, make sure we're doing things right.

"Mainly it's monitoring ­recovery from sessions. We're doing everything we can to make sure I don't have another episode. Fortunately, for the past four or five weeks I have been able to put in the training and don't have any issues."

McColgan has also been concerned about a recurrent non-specific virus that may even have triggered the problem. "I'd been constantly ill since coming back from Kenya last October. I was ill in November for a good couple of weeks, and again in December. I went to Kenya again in January and felt good, but when I came back I was ill every month until the end of April when I got rid of everything and my bloods gave the all-clear.

"Being ill eight times and trying to train through it, and not giving myself full recovery, maybe stressed it too much. The doctors aren't too sure. I just could not get consistent training mileage."

McColgan won the UK Championship title last weekend, ahead of fellow Scot Lenny Waite. "That's the most relieved I've ever been in my life," she says. "I'd no expectations going in. Two days before, my mum was telling me she did not think I should run, and maybe should just focus on the Commonwealths. The alternative would have been to do a couple of races at the end of the season, but Glasgow is not an opportunity I could miss."

l Athletes from outside Britain will be tracked after the event to make sure they have left the ­country, the UK Government has announced. Five boxers from Cameroon disappeared after the London Olympics in 2012 and later turned up in the UK capital.

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