Athletics: Back on the road towards Atlanta: Mike Rowbottom finds Scotland's Liz McColgan in buoyant mood

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The Independent Online
LIZ McCOLGAN, who plans to take part in her first meaningful race for 17 months tomorrow, has not lowered her ambitions during a long absence with a succession of injuries to back, knees and toes.

The 1991 world 10,000 metres champion, 30, is approaching the BUPA Great Midland Run as an important indicator that she can continue with a career which at least one medical adviser declared was over last year, and push on towards her abiding ambition - the 1996 Olympic marathon title.

'I have had 15 weeks of uninterrupted training,' she said yesterday. 'Obviously I need a race to see where I am at and this one fell at the right time. I have been training well - not as well as I was in 1991, but not far off it. The injuries are not completely behind me. I'm still having little niggles and things which I'm trying to get sorted out. But I'm getting better and going in the right direction.'

That direction leads, she hopes, towards Atlanta, which she intends to reach via next year's London Marathon. But after two years in which a succession of targets - the European Cup, the London Marathon, the European Championships, the Commonwealth Games - have proved beyond her, it is understandable that the brashness of some of her previous statements of intent has become muted.

She admits to the possibility of being nervous before tomorrow's 10km race around Coventry. 'It's been so long since I raced,' she said. 'I wonder what I will be like.'

A further shift in attitude is evident when she talks about how she is trying to correct her old compulsion of training too hard. 'I am trying to get by without doing too much mileage because I don't want to break down again.'

That still means 90 to 100 miles per week, however. Perhaps some things do not change. The bottom line for her is that she is in a position to race again. 'You can't get lower than when someone tells you that you can't run again,' she said. 'That is the lowest of the low. But I have always believed in myself.'

A field led by Suzanne Rigg, who took her European Cup 10,000m place at short notice last year, should not trouble her unduly. But she is not likely to find herself in the position of being lonely leader, as the women's race will be run alongside that of the men, where the field includes Paul Evans, the fastest Briton over 10km on the roads this year, Gary Staines, Paul Davies-Hale, last year's winner, and Douglas Wakiihuri, Kenya's former London Marathon champion.