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Dundee hero Eilish McColgan sheds tears in new documentary on relationship with mum Liz

The TV programme addresses Eilish's partying at Dundee University and her mum's childhood in Whitfield.

Eilish McColgan is brought to tears in BBC documentary Running the Family.
Eilish McColgan is brought to tears in BBC documentary Running the Family. Image: BBC/Studio Something

Eilish McColgan is seen shedding tears in a new documentary lifting the lid on her relationship with mother Liz.

Running in the Family tracks Eilish’s bid to beat the last remaining athletics record set by her Dundonian mother – the marathon.

In the hour-long documentary Eilish, who turned 33 on Saturday, gives a behind-the-scenes look at her battles with injuries and pressures associated with her name.

While Liz, 59, candidly talks about how running helped her escape her tough upbringing in a housing estate in Dundee – during which her best friend died as a result of drug abuse.

Two of Scotland’s greatest athletes

The long-distance runners are two of Scotland’s greatest-ever athletes.

Liz Nuttall (née Lynch, formerly McColgan) has won gold medals in the world championships and Commonwealth Games and silver in the Olympics.

Liz and Eilish McColgan are two of Scotland’s greatest athletes.

She also won marathons in New York City, Tokyo and London.

Eilish emulated her mother by winning the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and is a four-time European Championships medalist.

And she has beaten all of her mother’s records on the track.

Eilish McColgan says Liz instilled work ethic

Eilish is emotional more than once in the programme.

She is moved when she talks about her inspirational mother.

Eilish McColgan with mother Liz.
Mother Liz has been an inspiration, says Eilish McColgan. Image: Gordon Gillespie

“I just feel very, very fortunate to be my mum’s daughter,” she said.

“I’m very proud of that fact as well.

“I was very fortunate to have a role model like that growing up.

“I probably didn’t realise it at the time but now when I look back for sure, she instilled hard work into me from a very young age and instilled in me that it doesn’t happen overnight either; it’s a long process.”

Teary thanks to partner after London Marathon blow

And she wells up when discussing the support she has received from her coach and partner Michael Rimmer, 37, himself a three-time Olympian.

Eilish McColgan receiving an honorary degree from Dundee University in 2022. She is pictured with (from left) dad Peter McColgan, partner Michael Rimmer and uncle Aidan McColgan. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

Visibly upset after an injury that kept her out of this year’s London Marathon, Eilish said: “He does an awful lot for me – far too much – so I find it difficult sometimes because I can’t imagine how difficult that is.

“Being an athlete himself and putting that aside to help me, it’s a lot and hard to put into words when someone is willing to do that.

“I don’t want to let people down. I still want to do the best I possibly can for us as a family.”

Partying and kebabs at Dundee University

The documentary charts Eilish’s teenage years, as her performance plateaued during puberty, and early 20s, when partying at the University of Dundee almost derailed her.

Eilish running for Dundee Hawkhill Harriers as a teenager. Image: Gordon Gillespie

“I had a really normal student life,” she said.

“I was out partying and eating kebabs at 3am. I did what every other student does.

“But I was still going to training on Saturday mornings. Yes, I turned up hungover but I was there.

“People told me ‘you need to stop running and focus on a degree.’

“There was something inside you that tells you to keep going.

“I stopped going out and I stopped partying,

“I changed what I was eating.

“There was something inside of me that thought ‘I am going to be a professional athlete.'”

Running was Liz’s ‘saviour’ from Whitfield woe

Liz, who was born in 1964, also recalls her childhood in Whitfield.

“I was brought up in a council estate, the youngest of four siblings,” she said.

“A lot of people just wrote you off.

“Mum and dad were out working and there wasn’t a lot of money about so we couldn’t afford to do a lot of sports.

“So running suited me because I could just run out of the door and be in the countryside and up country lanes and fields and things like that.

“My best friend died of a drug overdose at 21, and I got out of that.

“Running was my saviour.”

Liz McColgan holding daughter Eilish above her head in 1991. The baby is wearing a medal around her neck.
Baby Eilish wearing one of Liz’s medals in 1991 as she is being held by her mother. Image: DC Thomson

Eilish called her mother’s success “a remarkable story”.

She continued: Someone from a council estate in Dundee wouldn’t have thought anything of my mum at all – that she would be destined for any type of greatness.

“And yet she proved a lot of people wrong on the way.”

Touching Commonwealth Games footage

In the absence of a London Marathon appearance, the programme is given a rousing send-off by footage of Eilish’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games win in 2022.

It came 36 years after her mother’s victory in the same competition and event – 10,000m – in Edinburgh.

The magical embrace after Eilish’s 2022 Commonwealth Games win. Image: Ryan Browne/Shutterstock

“I bolted straight over to my mum and we were crying and hugging each other,” Eilish recalled.

Liz added: “It was one of these moments that you probably will never really get again. For her to get that moment meant so much to me.”