During the Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, Great Britain long-distance runner Eilish McColgan is writing exclusively for Yahoo Sport UK.
It was always going to be a challenge to host a global championship in the Middle East. Culturally, sport isn’t the norm. But Doha 2019 is a starting point. Hopefully it can bring athletics to a new audience and spark the interest of youngsters who will have never seen it live before.
There’s been a lot of negativity regarding the empty seats across the stadium but each day attendances have been improving. It’s a far cry from the vacant seats and empty atmosphere of Moscow 2013. But equally it falls a long way short of the electric buzz at London 2017.
I’ve been to two major championships in London. The Olympics in 2012, followed but the World Championships in 2017. Both were stand out moments in my career. The British crowds and support are like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.
We are a nation of sport, it’s engrained in our culture. Of course it would be amazing to host a major championship in the UK each year but that would miss the true essence of sport, inclusivity for all. It’s important that athletic events reach the far corners of the world and continue to inspire people of all nationalities.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good the atmosphere was during my race. I had read all the media reports and was I expecting an entirely difference experience. There was a constant noise and cheer, especially when we ran past groups of Kenyan and Ethiopian supporters.
It’s a complete flip from how distance events are normally supported. Typically, it’s the sprint events that drive in the crowds, but here in Doha, it’s the distance events that are bringing in the supporters!
There had worries over the heat before heading into these championships but the air conditioning jets are certainly working. The temperature was around 25 degrees and there was a weird breeze on the back-straight too. Not so much of a wind to hinder performance but enough to cool the athletes down on each lap.
It’s an unusual scenario but conditions are perfect for fast times. The only slight issue has been deciding where to warm up. There are two options - an air conditioned indoor 200m track or the outdoor warm-up track.
A few athletes on the team had been warming up outside but found it difficult transferring into the cold call room from such an intense heat. Staying indoors seemed more sensible to me. It certainly raises some real questions and issues regarding Tokyo’s Olympics next year, where the heat and humidity will be even more challenging.
After a disappointing start to Britain’s campaign on the track, we’ve been given a real boost with Dina Asher-Smith producing some spectacular runs to become the World 200m champion and now Katarina Johnson-Thompson with her incredible heptathlon win. It couldn’t happen to two nicer individuals which makes it even more special.
They truly epitomise the saying, “good things happen to good people”. There will be so many young athletes across the UK heading down to the track with their spikes this winter inspired by Dina and Kat’s efforts. Hard working and an all round good eggs, something everyone should aspire to be.
Personally, my championships has got off to a good start. The qualifying rounds are tricky for everyone. Focussing on the job at hand and keeping the nerves at bay are the main aims. There’s a part of you that hopes to get through the rounds, using as little energy as you can.
But taking it too relaxed and slow can often lead to athletes getting caught out over the final metres. At the end of the day, you can be in the best shape of your life but if you’re not in the final to use that fitness, what’s the point? It’s something that I’ve kept reminded myself. The final is where it really matters.
I set off in my heat running a strong, controlled pace from the start. After qualifying in an automatic position, I was surprised to see that I wasn’t too far off my personal best which bodes really well for the final on Saturday night!
My aims are always realistic. I’ve never been one to aim too high above what I can realistically achieve. The Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes are strong and will be the ones fighting for a medal alongside a German athlete, who is part of the Nike Oregon Project.
If I can run a personal best then I’ll finish my season fulfilled. And who knows what position that may place me in. It could be in the top 5 or it could be last position. But if I’ve ran a time I know I’m capable of running or the fastest time I’ve ever run, then what more can I ask for?
By then end of the week, we could potentially have three World Champions in Dina Asher-Smith, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Laura Muir.
Three strong and fierce women. How incredible would that be for British sport, these three are shining a light on how good sport can be. Britain has been waiting a long time for a World Champion and now two come along at once. It looks like we are entering into another golden era for Athletics.
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