It’s apparent almost immediately on speaking with Eilish McColgan that she’s got her head screwed on.

For many athletes, following up their best-ever year with a season almost entirely decimated by injury would be a devastating blow.

But McColgan is both intelligent and realistic enough to know that’s not how elite sport, and certainly not how elite distance running works.

2022 was a remarkable year for McColgan; Commonwealth gold and silver was quickly followed by European silver and bronze, with the Dundonian also running a raft of British and European records.

It appeared that 2023 was going to continue on a similar vein for McColgan; British records in the 10,000m and half marathon suggested the Scot was heading for a similarly successful season this year.

However, as she prepared to make her marathon debut in London in April, McColgan suffered a knee injury that has, it’s turned out, obliterated her year.

She’s now not raced for almost eight months and so difficult has this injury been to shake off, she’s resorted to cutting out running from her programme entirely in recent weeks.

McColgan has suffered a number of injuries throughout her now lengthy career, however, and it’s this that’s given her perspective and has ensured she’s been able to glean some positives from a season that promised much but has ultimately been so disrupted.

“Initially, I found it very frustrating because I’d run such a big PB on the track then another big PB on the road in the half marathon so I felt like my momentum had really carried on from last year,” she says. 

“I was in the best shape of my life so when it started to crumble away with this injury, I didn’t want to let it go.

“But I’m a very realistic person and I know that just because you have one good year, it doesn’t mean the next year will also be good. Athletes are constantly dealing with that – one year you’re feeling great, the next year you’re ill or injured.

“This is nowhere near as bad as what I’ve been through in the past. 

“2011 was the hardest by a long way; I completely shattered my foot and had to get it reconstructed and I was told I’d never make it back to elite level. That really was rock bottom. 

“Then in 2015, I broke my ankle and had to get surgery but that felt better because I’d been there before.

“And similarly, with this injury, there’s been mistakes with misdiagnosis but I’ve been in way worse positions and I know I can come back.”

It was, in fact, a snidey comment on social media that helped McColgan rationalise her predicament.

After being called “chronically injured” by a troll, McColgan counted back how many major championships in which she’d successfully competed before being forced to miss this summer’s World Championships in Budapest.

She enjoyed, she realised, seven consecutive summers of racing for GB and that, she quite rightly points out, is a rare achievement in elite athletics circles.

That’s not to suggest this year hasn’t taken any toll on McColgan, who turned 33 yesterday.

As someone who has rarely, if ever, struggled with motivation, she’s been forced to confront the unusual feeling of apathy towards running in recent times.

The Herald: McColgan won gold at the Commonwealth Games last yearMcColgan won gold at the Commonwealth Games last year (Image: PA)

However, as is the case with everything with McColgan, she’s far too sensible to do anything drastic on the back of a fleeting emotion.

“There was a little wavering of motivation towards the end of this season for me – not because I didn’t want to do it anymore but because I’d been running through pain from April so I did get to the point where I wanted to stop. Not stop forever, but stop for a while. 

“That’s unusual for me, I rarely get to the stage where I want to stop running but I knew I needed to go on holiday and have a break.

“I didn’t feel like I missed running and I did wonder why that was but I think it’s because I’d had enough of the pain and I was at the point where it wasn’t fun. 

“Every so often, I do doubt myself. I’ll hear someone saying I’m getting too old or I keep breaking down and sometimes I listen to that and wonder if it’s true. But there’s something deep down in my gut and in my heart that tells me to ignore it, it’s all nonsense and I know I do have the drive to keep going.”

McColgan’s year, both the highs and the lows of it, will be laid bare in a BBC Scotland fly-on-the-wall documentary which will air on Thursday.

It gives a rare insight into the life of McColgan, outwith the glitz and glamour of major championships and awards nights.

And it will, predicts McColgan, come as something of a surprise to many just how mundane the life of an elite athlete can often be.

“People might not realise until they watch this quite how much I’m abroad. And it’s just me and Michael (Rimmer, McColgan’s boyfriend and coach), there’s no one else, I don’t have a team or anything like that,” she says.

“So when you watch the show, you’ll see that it’s just us two, sitting in a sh*tty wee apartment somewhere. It’s very boring a lot of the time but I love to run and that’s what I do it all for.”

McColgan may have spent much of this year recovering from injury but she’s got her sights firmly set on regaining full fitness and returning to racing early next year.

Running the marathon at the Olympics is a potential goal but McColgan knows all too well the dangers of pinning all her hopes on one specific race. Rather, she’d much prefer to focus on regaining her fitness and if that leads to her making her fourth Olympic appearance in Paris next summer then so be it.

“The Olympics is a big goal but I want to wait until I’m fit enough to be competitive – I don’t want to go to Paris unless I’m fit enough to run well,” she says. 

“I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, I want to see how my body is because my body will tell me when it’s ready. So I’ll keep an open mind about when that’ll be.”

‘Eilish McColgan: Running in the Family’ is on BBC Scotland on Thursday at 10pm, and will also be on iPlayer