McColgan charged up

OLYMPIC GAMES: Norman Fox looks at a regenerated marathon runner who can sense victory today

Liz McColgan got halfway through the sentence. "I had a dream..." Then she remembered that the city where today she plans to become the Olympic Marathon champion was, of course, Martin Luther King's Atlanta.

Re-phrasing, she said that three years ago she was told she would never run again. Giving up does not come easily to McColgan, however, and she kept dreaming that she would finally return to athletics, come to Atlanta and defy the pessimistic specialist. She knew though that if she ever ran again, her punishing schedule might need to be amended. The trouble was she had always believed that the only way to succeed was to drive herself to the point of collapse.

She confesses now that none of her early coaches attempted to dissuade her from believing that high mileage and frequent racing without proper planning were the only ways to win anything. "That's been the difference being with Greta Waitz," she said. Waitz, the Norwegian who set the best time for the marathon on three occasions and was world champion, began to advise McColgan only a year ago and immediately insisted that rest time was as important as training and racing and that "quality training" was more important than sheer slogs.

"She was coaching herself. I could see that she was tired before she started racing. She would never allow herself time to let her body regain strength after heavy training or racing. She always thought that a day without training was a day lost," Waitz said.

McColgan now takes notice because Waitz had similar experiences and similar weaknesses.

Waitz remembers first watching a gaunt McColgan and thinking "poor girl". The gauntness was the evidence of permanent exhaustion, but since taking Waitz's advice, McColgan has developed from an often frustrated long-distance track runner to an instant success over the marathon distance. Yet her three victories and her third place in London in 1993 were done at the later expense of injuries that threatened her career.

There were two knee operations, Achilles tendon problems, back pain; it went on and on. It was nearly three years ago that an American specialist advised her that running again was out of the question. "I won't repeat what I said, but I just lay there believing that running in Atlanta was possible."

Winning this year's London Marathon in the hottest weather the event has ever witnessed convinced her that she could win here, even though the favourite remains the Boston Marathon winner, Uta Pippig, of Germany.

McColgan is sure, however, that the London race in April taught her a lot. "I would never want to allow anyone to take such a big lead as Anita Haakenstad had. I fell into the trap of only watching the top girls." The way she hauled in Haakenstad and two others has given her the confidence to believe that whatever conditions she has to face here she is capable of winning.

Easier said than done, because not only is it going to be hot, the course takes the runners into downtown Atlanta which means negotiating a number of comparatively steep climbs amounting to a total of nearly 1,200ft.

McColgan said: "I'll not be thinking of times or where I am. My eyes will be on the blue line - I never notice anything when I'm running, not even the heat."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there