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Published 3rd May, Eilish McColgan
There have been huge changes within my family life – the biggest being my mother (and coach), Liz, relocating to Doha, Qatar.
I thought it was in my best interest to go visit my mum for two weeks in her new surroundings, with the added benefit of having someone monitor my training after struggling with illness so often.
My flatmate is Muslim and has been out to Doha on numerous occasions, so he was very quick to tell me of how different the culture was and all the things I could not do. But, in reality, it was a lot more relaxed than I imagined it to be.
Sun-seeker: Eilish McColgan visited her mum, Liz in her new surroundings in Doha
The heat however, was something I wasn’t ready for. Walking out of the airport at 9pm was a complete shock to the system and I was definitely not prepared for Doha’s hottest day in ‘oh so many years’.
Opening the door was like walking into a human furnace. It genuinely felt like the sun was directly in front of my face, within touching distance. My first track session was at seven in the evening as the sun set but, even so, it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The culture is obviously worlds apart from the UK. I was walking a tight-rope in my head as to certain things.
For example, the culture is for women to be fully covered. However, it is extremely difficult for an athlete to do a hard track session in 100 degrees weather, fully covered… but at the same time, I don’t want to disrespect anyone.
Move: Liz McColgan, seen here at the 2013 BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, has relocated to Doha
Thankfully, things are a lot more relaxed within the sporting field. People are not used to seeing women training for sports – you can tell it’s still all relatively new.
Down at the track that evening, I was the only female. Initially, it’s a little daunting walking out on to the track in front of everyone, watching your movements, step by step. But once I started my session and they realised I was an athlete, everyone was extremely friendly, clapping and encouraging me as I ran around.
There is definitely an air of change within Doha. A shift towards equality, which is heartening to see. Young women are interested in taking part in sports and competing – they are just waiting to be given the opportunity.
It’s also refreshing to see how religion is of such high importance. Days revolve around it.
Throughout the day religious chants are played through speakers, more predominately in the parks, and some people stop instantly in order to pray.
On track: McColgan has been training in Doha but found the heat intense
You start to become accustomed to hearing the chants echoing during the day but I never did get used to the one around 4am. It’s almost quite eerie – hearing music playing through a speaker with a male voice chanting in a different language in the small hours of the morning.
But again, it reinforced to me just how highly religion is held and I found that quite an endearing quality to be around.
I was very fortunate to be able to use the amazing facilities at the Aspire Academy. The academy was set up for young boys to gain scholarship into a selection of different sports. They gain a full education but there is a large focus on trying to identify children with sporting ability. In the past the school has had success with Mutaz Essa Barshim, the 2013 world silver medallist for high jump – a fully-fledged Qatari superstar who is a product of the Aspire system.
Made an impression: McColgan was impressed with the facilities at the Aspire Academy
For young kids, aged 8-14, the facilities are of a world class standard. An athletics warm up-track, air-conditioned athletics stadium for competitions, indoor 200m track, indoor football pitches, swimming pools.. the list goes on.
Alongside altitude chambers, anti-gravity treadmills, physiotherapists, doctors – yet everything is barely used. Multi-million pound facilities, all for 40 or so young boys.
It’s unbelievable – money doesn’t seem to be a factor.
Doha wants to create success and things are definitely starting to look positive. Hopefully the balance continues to shift with regards to sporting opportunities for women and who knows, maybe one day in the near future, we will witness their first ever female winning a global title.