Not so Eilish McColgan.
Since her mother and long-time coach Liz McColgan-Nuttall, the retired double Commonwealth Games gold medallist, relocated to Doha, Qatar, earlier this year, the pair have had to find alternative ways of making their working relationship function across the 3200 miles which separate them.
McColgan, who is set to compete for Team Scotland in the 3000m steeplechase at Glasgow 2014 this month, has been coached by her mother since she was 13.
“It’s difficult having to arrange your training through text and email,” she says. “That has been quite hard to manage but my mum has helped me this far and I feel I’ve really benefited from the training she gives me, so I don’t really want to change that. There is not another coach in the UK I would want to go to because I feel I’ve got one of the best ones around.”
Slacking, it would seem, isn’t a word in her vocabulary. “I’m quite independent anyway, so she doesn’t have to particularly worry,” says McColgan. “If my mum sets me a programme she can pretty much be guaranteed in her mind that I’ll be doing that. I’m very good at monitoring what I need to do and follow everything that she says.
“I went out to visit her in April and at certain points of the year I’ll be able to go out, maybe for a month or so to catch up with my mum and train. For the summer season I’m away all over the place, in and out of the country, so to be honest it doesn’t make that much of a difference.”
After a shaky start to the season in which McColgan, 23, suffered the debilitating effects of a virus after she returned home from altitude training in Kenya in February, she has begun a steady climb back to form.
The Dundee-born athlete took the 3000m steeplechase title at the Sainsbury’s British Championships in Birmingham last weekend, running a season’s best of 9:50.06 despite succumbing to a bout of food poisoning after she ate a curdled yoghurt two days before competing.
While that time was not quite enough to secure her place in the European Championships this August, the Diamond League meet in Paris on Saturday will provide another opportunity to gain the qualifying standard. McColgan, whose PB in the 3000m steeplechase stands at 9:35.82, is billed to contest the following round in the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix at Hampden Park a week from now. It’s then full-speed ahead to the Commonwealth Games. McColgan is all too aware that the eyes of the home nation will be focused upon her, but is pragmatic about the burden of expectation.
“I have to be realistic with my aims,” she says. “Some people would see the Commonwealth Games as a lower level to the Olympics and World Championships, but, for me, the Kenyan athletes are the dominant ones in my event. If I was going to win the Commonwealth Games it would mean I was probably going to win the Olympics and that’s not really realistic for me at the moment.
“I have to be positive in the fact I can only do what I’m capable of and run the fastest time possible. A personal best, if I was to achieve that, I couldn’t complain. If I could scrape into the medals as well I would be more than happy.”
Loughborough-based McColgan, who began training full-time 18 months ago thanks to National Lottery funding which helps provide coaches, technical support, facilities and equipment, has set her sights on the more long-term goals of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the World Championships in London a year later.
“The British record is 9:24, held by Barbara Parker, and that’s always going to be in my sights over the next two years,” she says. “I do feel I’m capable of doing it, but whether it’s this year or next, I’ll have to wait and see how things pan out.”
The National Lottery funds 1300 elite athletes across the UK, many of whom will be representing their home nation at Glasgow 2014.