LIKE many students, much of Scottish athletics star Eilish McColgan’s time at university was spent sampling the local nightclub scene in her native Dundee. Going to parties, meeting her friends to go clubbing and the occasional late-night kebab were part and parcel of her weekly routine.

It is not a lifestyle that’s usually associated with a top athlete as her mum - Liz McColgan-Nuttall, a triple Olympian in her own right – would have been able to tell her.

It is an experience, Eilish insists, that she has no regrets over - even if she doesn’t miss going for a lengthy run while nursing a hangover.

“‘I was out partying and drinking five nights a week, getting no sleep and eating kebabs at 4am,” she laughed. “It is no secret I enjoyed university life.

“I just wasn’t a ‘runner’ as such. When I look back now, I know I was still training all the time and that was because I enjoyed it. I went to the Hawks three times a week.

“I did have ambitions but not really to make a career from it – to be honest, I wasn’t anywhere near good enough. I went out and partied. I had a big friendship group. I partied more - and harder - than I certainly should as an athlete.

“But I don’t really regret it. I feel as if I got it out my system so to speak. I had some great times, made some great memories, made some not-so-great memories.

“It felt like part and parcel of growing up. I still enjoyed the physical part of training – even turning up with the hangover I would push myself.”


Towards the end of 2010, however, a conversation with a sneering family member triggered a response which provided the push that Eilish needed to devote herself entirely to the sport.

She realised that if she was to make it as an athlete, a far greater sense of discipline was required. And if she could prove a couple of doubters wrong along the way, then all the better.

In a career which has subsequently seen her feature in GB and NI teams for the past nine years, win European medals indoors and outdoors, race twice at the Olympics and land Scottish National Records in two distance events, it is a decision that has paid off for the 29-year-old.

“When I made the decision at the start of 2011, it was like throwing a switch,” Eilish told Scottish Athletics in a special interview about her career.

“I stopped partying right away and trained harder. A family member had said to me: ‘Why do you bother? You do all this training and put in effort but you are never going to make a living from athletics? What’s the point?’

“And I thought, ‘Well, I still enjoy it so why can’t I do both?’ But more than that it just annoyed me a wee bit that someone was saying I was wasting my time. And I started to think ‘I will show you … I actually think I can become a professional athlete.’

“That was a lightbulb moment for sure. I went from someone who was out drinking five nights a week, not sleeping and eating a kebab at 4am to someone who was teetotal and didn’t go out. Friends were asking me ‘Are you okay?’

“I just decided at 20 I wanted to commit 100 percent to my running. The Olympics were looming up 18 months later and people were saying with it being in London it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I got into a far better routine of eating, sleeping and training and I split my uni course to give more time to athletics.

“Within six months I made my first GB and NI team for the U23s [in Ostrava in the Czech Republic in July 2011]. And that was a huge eye-opener because suddenly I was away on camp with real athletes - people who were basically eat, sleep, live runners and I thought ‘I’m not doing that enough’.”

*Watch the video interview with Eilish McColgan on