Tears formed in Eilish McColgan’s eyes as she described how an undiagnosed irregular heartbeat forced her into hospital earlier this year.
The British steeplechaser, daughter of former world 10,000 metres champion Liz, has experienced heart palpitations since the age of 12, but never like this; a two-day attack during a visit to see her mother in Qatar that was so severe she felt like her heart was going at ‘100 miles an hour’.
McColgan has refused surgery to insert a valve into her heart and will not take daily medicine for the rest of her life because it would mean the end of her career as an elite athlete. Instead, she must wear a heart monitor every time she runs and simply hope it does not happen again.
Concern: British steeplechaser Eilish McColgan has experienced heart palpitations since the age of 12
After seeking reassurance from Olympic breaststroke silver medallist Michael Jamieson — who was taken into hospital with an alarmingly irregular heartbeat last November — she returned to win the 3,000m steeplechase at the British Championships last month.
The 23-year-old will race in the Glasgow Diamond League meeting on Saturday and at the Commonwealth Games, in which her mother twice won 10,000m gold.
McColgan is adamant she does not want the incident ‘blown out of proportion’ or used as an excuse for a poor performance. Her first reaction was to worry about missing a day’s training, while her mother’s initial advice was to go for a run on a cross-trainer. But McColgan was scared, and with good reason.
‘In 23 years of my life it happened once,’ she said, ‘but I hope it doesn’t happen for another 23 years. It was scary. I haven’t felt anything like the sort of palpitations I had in Qatar. It never before impacted my training or my life and so I just didn’t think about.
‘Afterwards I was a bit scared returning to running because I wasn’t sure what would happen. The doctors said it was so unusual for a young, fit female to go into such a state.
‘I kept it very close, to just my friends and family. I’m not embarrassed by the situation and I’m not trying to hide it, but it was something personal.
Emotional: McColgan revealed how an undiagnosed irregular heartbeat forced her into hospital
‘My mum and dad are really proud that, with all the setbacks, I’m here racing in Glasgow and I’m going to be at the Commonwealth Games. Maybe not as fit as I would want to be, but I’m here.’