1. My PE teacher 

MY PE teacher actually put me into the local cross country so that was a moment in itself – just being entered into the Angus schools race. I must have been in primary six and I’d never really done a race. I knew my parents were runners but they’d always kept me sheltered and away from it.  That was my first-ever race. It was cold, wet and windy but I loved everything about it and got the running bug from there. 

2. Dundee Hawkhill Harriers 

I BEGGED my parents to take me along to the “big club”, Dundee Hawkhill Harriers, which was in the city. Joining them definitely changed my life, there’s no doubt about it.

It was the best thing I ever did.  I first went along as a youngster, eager to learn not just about running but all events – high jump, hurdles, javelin and it was really just good fun. 

My mum started coaching me around 12 or 13 and said if you want to do running then I’ll come down and coach and we’ve gone from there.  The people I met at that club are still my best friends. You build different friendships when everyone has the same interest and passions.

3. Winning National Cross Country Championships 

I FOUND success quite quickly, winning a UK national title at the under-13 level. People knew who my mum and stuff was but when I came into that race, I wasn’t competing at UK-wide levels. I’d won in Scotland and people were saying it’s a different ball game in England. I came away and I won it.

It was the first time I thought not only do I enjoy running but maybe I could be good at this.  But quite quickly, I went through such a lull in my sport just from lack of energy and just generally growing, going through school, exams, puberty. I’m very tall so I had a lot of growing pains and I couldn’t get it right so that first race was a turning point in my early career.  It was probably six, seven years of not quite reaching that winning level again. 

I felt really proud to be from Dundee and representing my city on a  bigger stage. 

4. Breaking into Team GB 

I THINK when you’re growing up you think breaking into the GB Team is a big deal. The news used to highlight how only so many Scots are off to the Olympics when it comes to athletics. You felt quite special doing it. 

There’s always that first thing of being from Scotland – you feel passionate about it – but it is a nice feeling when you break through and you’re one of the Scottish athletes on the GB team.  My first GB team was when I was 21 so considering what age I was when I started it took me a long, long time and it’s definitely something I’m very  proud of.

A lot of youngsters message me and I say to them: “Don’t worry about your performances when you’re 13, 14 or even 17, 18 – just don’t give up. Keep doing it because you never know what might happen”.  For me, making the team made me start to believe I could make the team for Olympic Games. 

5. Winning Commonwealth gold

THAT was the moment of my career. It takes a lot for it all to come together, for your body to feel good, for your mind to be ready, to be in good shape, not be sick, not to be carrying an injury, the atmosphere, the weather.  So much has to come together to have a good performance. That’s what I find most difficult about elite sport but it did, it came together for me.

Knowing my mum achieved the same feat 30-odd years earlier, it feels like it was written to happen that way.

I’ve done several Commonwealth events and come sixth, knowing I was capable of winning but something’s happened whether I’ve got sick or picked up an injury and I’ve stood on the start line and it’s not gone the way I wanted. 

The National: McColgan picked up a gold medal at last year's Commonwealth GamesMcColgan picked up a gold medal at last year's Commonwealth Games (Image: PA)

I went into Birmingham with the confidence of having a really good start to the year but a bad World Championships after I picked up a bug and then a hamstring injury. If anything, that helped because I knew by the time Birmingham came around that would all be out my system.  If I could get to the start line healthy, it would be my best chance. I felt I’d had my bad one and been through that down and I was on the up. 

6. Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014

I WAS so disappointed in Glasgow, I came sixth there.

I was sick going into the race and I felt it was such a wasted opportunity because I would have loved to have won a medal at home and I  thought it was a  missed chance.  It gave me a motivation to kick on because I wanted to win a medal.

It wasn’t so much I want to win, I wanted to bring home a medal for Scotland because I had been in shape years before but I’d just been unlucky.  Maybe I’d overtrained because I’d been pushing for a home championship. We are still human at the end of the day.  It feels weird to have then put it together in Birmingham with so many Scottish people in the crowd, my boyfriend was there, my mum, my dad.  It’s a memory that will last for a very, very long time. 

7. Representing Scotland 

I THINK 2008 was my first-ever Scotland shirt. It was a Commonwealth youth team  in India.

I’d never been abroad for running so it was a new experience to be with other sports and for it to be my first Scotland vest was really special.  It’s different in the sense that it’s more the people you’ve grown up with, competed at Scottish school championships, national championships. We’re a relatively small country so you go to all the same events. Even the staff, the coaches, the physios.

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It ends up being people you’ve seen from when you were 12 or 13 years old.  It was a different experience from Team GB so I’d say with Scotland, there is that familiarity of just knowing them. I wouldn’t say there’s a difference in camaraderie, everyone gets on well in both teams. Even in GB teams now, at the Europeans in 2022 there were so many people I’d never seen. 

There’s a constant influx of new talent that comes in and you think I’m one of the old folk now.  In Scotland, we’re not quite so blessed with talent in the sprints, it’s more the distance events. 

8. My mum 

MY mum (Liz) has been the only person to ever really coach me, to be honest. It wasn’t until I got involved in the sport myself, probably around 17 or 18, that I realised how incredible my mum was. You don’t think about it when you’re young, I just thought everybody’s parents went out and kept fit. I had no concept of what level they competed at. 

As I’ve got older as a female athlete, I have a huge appreciation for the fact she had me in November 1990 and less than a year later became a world champion. That blows my mind to this day. 

She was a trailblazer for female athletes. Back then, it wasn’t thought possible that you could have a baby and come back and compete.  Nike sponsored my mum and dropped her when she became pregnant because it wasn’t the done thing but my mum proved them wrong.  Just from being a mum, I can’t imagine how stressful that was having a baby and yet then winning the biggest event of your career. 

She’s a very different character, she’s different to anybody I’ve ever met, she’s so driven and motivated and it all comes from inside her.  Having a strong role model has allowed me to be confident within myself. I wasn’t as a youngster but as an adult female, I feel different to the way I thought when I was 12 or 13.  As my online profile has grown you get all the trolls and people come out with all sorts of nonsense but I have my mum as a role model. 

9. My boyfriend 

I’M very driven to make my family proud rather than external people who I  don’t know.  My boyfriend Michael is very different from my mum. She’s like me where we can’t switch off but having him in the mix is the balance I need to be happy and not be too intense.  My boyfriend has travelled with me everywhere which people find strange. We’re never apart whether it’s races, competition, training, it’s made a big difference. I feel much happier.  We live a relatively normal life. People think athletes are robots and that we can’t do this and that.

Obviously, my life is different to other people’s but it’s as normal as it can possibly be and he  brings that.  I wouldn’t say there’s anybody outside the sport that inspires me. Obviously, there’s incredible people like Andy Murray and Roger Federer who I look up to but I always look to people within my own sport. 

10. My serious injury 

AT my first-ever televised race, I shattered one of the bones in my foot live on the BBC at a Diamond League event in 2011.  My mum was there, it had been raining and I slightly misstepped on the water barrier and when I landed, I heard this massive pop in my foot. I’d never broken a bone – even as a kid – but I knew straight away. 

I ran the last 600 metres with the foot shattered, qualified for the World Championships, ran a PB. Everyone after the race was saying just to give me some ibuprofen and to walk it off.  The doctor at Ninewells said it looked like I’d been in a motorcycle accident. I underwent surgery and I had five screws and a metal foot and the doctor said I wouldn’t run again; I’d maybe get back to a “hobby jog” and I was devastated. 

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Everything came tumbling down very quickly but they reshaped my foot, I started doing jogs on a little trampoline and built myself back up to make the Olympics. I wasn’t at the level I would have liked but the fact I made it was a breakthrough in itself.  A couple of years ago, I got a letter from that doctor and he was proud and sort of apologised for breaking my dream before I got there.

He wanted to ensure I made the right choices and did rehab properly. It was really nice to know he’d seen me and was proud of me getting back to that level.  I’ve now got seven screws in my left foot. I think out of all the things that have happened in my career, it genuinely did change everything.

It’s like I got a glimpse of elite athletics and then it got taken away from me. I was just playing at it so I started looking after myself and respecting my body and the stress you’re putting through it and I wasn’t out partying and eating rubbish at 4am in the morning.