A fortnight of soaring glories continued for Eilish McColgan as she fought off her extreme post Commonwealth Games fatigue, and the attentions of a high-class field, to claim a brilliant European 10,000m silver in Munich. The 31-year-old had been so weary before this race that she had spent the day in a deep slumber. Yet fuelled by caffeine and a desire for her third medal in 12 days, she produced another performance of immense grit and steel.
In blustery conditions, McColgan applied the template that had served her so well in Birmingham, pushing to the front early and applying a cobra-like squeeze for lap after painful lap. But this time the Kenyan-born Turkish athlete Yasemin Can proved to have a powerful antidote.
With seven laps remaining Can made a decisive move, breaking away before coming home in 30min 32.57sec. But McColgan had enough in the tank to beat Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter to silver on the final lap in 30min 41.05sec.
“I felt very tired all this week,” McColgan admitted afterwards. “I hadn’t slept for several nights after the 10,000m in Birmingham and then I had to do it again in the 5,000m. And then all the media the following day when you’re up at the crack of dawn and on your feet all day – I’m not used to that.
“All I did today was sleep. My roommate just thought I was dead. And even though the housekeeper came in, I didn’t even hear it. I was just totally knocked out.”
However McColgan still packed a punch when it mattered. After a sedate opening kilometre, she decided enough was enough and kicked on. Soon the field was strung out and screaming. With 18 of the 25 laps remaining, only four athletes were left in contention. And while gold ultimately proved beyond her, this was another impressive performance.
“I didn’t want a last kilometre burn-up,” McColgan said. “But when the pace went up, I just didn’t quite have that zip. But it was probably to be expected. I’m not a superhuman and I have to respect that my legs were going to be tired.
“And I knew it was going to be tough with Can. I knew she was the one to beat tonight and she just was super strong. I couldn’t stay with her.”
Meanwhile the most powerful story of the evening came from British 400m runner Laviai Nielsen after she won her heat in a season’s best 51.60sec – and then revealed that, like her twin sister Lina, she has multiple sclerosis.
“I got diagnosed last year, two days before I flew to the Olympics, which was great for my mental health,” Laviai said. “I saw Lina when she got diagnosed when she was 17 and she went through a really dark period. No 17-year-old should have to face that. I saw her face depression.
“I looked back at the nine years she had and thought: ‘I’m going to be OK.’ I’ve got the most perfect example right in front of me. I dealt with it in my own way, but ever since it’s been really positive and we’ve helped each other through it all.”
Earlier there were extraordinary scenes in central Munich as Germany’s Richard Ringer produced a stunning sprint finish to win the men’s marathon.
With 200m remaining, it looked like Israel’s Maru Teferi was a certainty for gold – with the BBC’s commentary team of Steve Cram and Paula Radcliffe announcing that the victory was “absolutely” his. However Ringer, a former European bronze medallist over 5,000m, used his track speed to take a stunning victory in 2:10.21 – two seconds clear of Teferi.
On Tuesday Dina Asher-Smith returns after a hamstring injury to defend her European 100m title against her compatriot Daryll Neita and Swiss world indoor 60m champion Mujinga Kambundji. On the men’s side, the Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs is favourite, with reigning champion Zharnel Hughes the main danger.