Liz McColgan: 1986 Commonwealth Games 10,000 metres

Leading up to the games in Edinburgh, I was a pretty much unknown as an athlete in the Uk as I'd been on a scholarship to the states for the previous 3 years.

I came back to the UK to run my first 10K race that was a qualifier for the Commonwealth Games Scottish team. I was in really good shape and managed to lap everyone in the field despite many of them still being on for target for hitting the qualifying time.

Having secured my place, I remember there being a lot of issues around finance of the Scottish team at the games, which at one point looked to put the whole plan in doubt. With the distraction of finance hanging over the event, I wondered if competing in the games in my home country might prove to be a bit of an anti climax.

That certainly wasn’t the case! As soon as I walked into the Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh, alongside my Scottish team mates, with us leading all the athletes in to the opening ceremony, hearing the bagpipes playing, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I realised this was indeed going to be pretty special.

I think back to sitting in the athletes village before my race, It wasn't proving to be a good games for the Scottish athletes, those who were expected to pick up medals hadn't managed to do so, the issues around finance still hung over the team, performances weren’t going as expected and the atmosphere was pretty flat.

England were proving to be mighty strong, with Steve Cram, Daley Thompson, Tessa Sanderson and Roger Black wining gold medals. Ben Johnson of Canada won the men’s 100 metres

Tom McKean came back having been beaten to the gold medal by Steve Cram in the 800m and Yvonne Murray returned with the bronze in the 3000. Neither was particularly happy with their performances. I needed to focus on the race ahead and took myself away into a quiet corner, as I didn't want to talk to anybody, just to focus on the race that I faced.

My main rival in the 10,000 metres was a girl called Anna Audain from New Zealand who had won most races ahead of the event and most people really thought she couldn't be beaten.

I was confident in the training system I had and there was no other option in my mind other than to go out and win the race. I walked out the door with a determination that I was going to deliver what I knew I was capable of. I was the last chance of Scotland getting a gold medal on the track.

The weather was pretty awful at the track as I got to Meadowbank. Despite this, the stadium was absolutely packed.

There was a lot of pressure on me, but I just remember getting into the race, sticking to my plan. As the race went on the crowd just got noisier and noisier. Normally I wouldn't hear the crowd due to concentrating on the race but this was just something special and with 800 metres to go, I'd pulled clear of the field, so that everyone in the crowd could enjoy those 2 laps to victory. The crowd was so noisy, stamping their feet and shouting for me. The atmosphere was really electric and truly memorable

After the race, with it still lashing with rain, I waited in the tunnel under the track to go and receive my medal. I didn't expect many people to stay as the weather was so bad, but the stadium was still packed, with everyone staying to see me receive the commonwealth games gold medal.

To receive the gold medal, in Scotland, in front of my home supporters, with that atmosphere was the absolute pinnacle of my career. The feelings I had that night were amazing and were never really replicated throughout the rest of my career. I never had that astounding support and atmosphere in any other race I subsequently ran. In some ways it was the beginning of the end because nothing ever really live up to that moment again.

Scotland's last chance, I went out and did exactly what I needed to do. It really couldn't have got any better.

On the night I was obviously happy but hadn't appreciated what it meant to other people. I went for a run the following morning and there were taxi drivers pipping and shouting out well-done Liz.

2 days later I went home to find people camped outside my house waiting to give me a fantastic welcome home. I really didn't understand why people were being so kind, I'd not really trained over here, had no kind of PR, so didn't think folk would know me and I was pretty shy then too.

It really took a wee while to sink in what I'd done.

Liz McColgan

Memory added on February 27, 2013


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