Colin McCourt – the comeback kid

Lucky LUCA got the chance to catch up with Colin McCourt recently, a former St Mary’s student with bundles of running talent and an interesting challenge on his hands this year.

1. For any readers who haven’t heard, can you explain what led to you being challenged to a bet to run a sub-16 minute 5km time by the end of the year (or receive 17 tattoos on your body!)?

Well, it’s a bit of a mad story to be honest. I found a picture on my phone, an old one of me back in my running days. I posted it on social media, had a think for about 30 minutes and realised I was fat (sounds brutal, but it was the truth, I was 94kg!). So I went for a 20 minute run and while I was out there I thought, ‘Right that’s it, let’s get fit, no more excuses’. I got my partner to take a photo of me with my top off and I posted that to social media (for some crazy reason) with a caption like, ‘Right, everyone has a starting point, this is mine.’

Then my friend got hold of it and sent it to our ‘boy’s group chat’. I didn’t check my phone for about 2 hours and when I did, the boys, including international athletes Ross Murray, Andrew Osagie and Andy Vernon, had decided that I was in the bet – they didn’t give me an option. The next day I was up at 6am and out the door for a run, and the challenge had started.

Colin McCourt (far right) running for GB in 2010

2. Can you describe how your training has been going this year and how it’s been to coach yourself back to fitness after such a long break?

My training has gone amazing so far. I’m not going to lie, I have had some dark days and negative runs but my approach is to make it fun and challenging at the same time. I started with a 20 minute run every day. It was just about getting it done, not distance, not speed, just one foot in front of the other. I really struggled to begin with. I was running about 10 minutes per mile in February when I started. Sweating, sore legs and chaffing up to the eyeballs. Now I am 75 kgs and running 10 miles at around 6 minutes 30 seconds per mile. I just keep building it, adding something extra everyday. The challenge is setting sessions and doing them.

3. What’s been the hardest thing so far about coming back to training and how do you motivate yourself through tough times?

The hardest thing is the demons in your head. We all have them and they try to take over and tell you, ‘You can stay in bed and have an extra 10 minutes of sleep’. But then I look at the baby and Rebecca and I am up, motivated and out the door. Even on the runs where you have the tough miles, when your mind goes to the places that test you, I just keep pushing and believing in myself.

4. What have you enjoyed most about your training so far this year?

I think my method of continually asking my body questions and it answering them and surprising me, that’s the best bit. Now I don’t know what is possible!

5. How confident are you feeling about achieving a sub 16-min 5km by the end of the year, and what do you think could be the biggest hurdle for you?

I am very confident (not to sound big-headed but I think from how quick I have got back to fitness this is something I can do), the only thing is if I get injured, it’s a different story, as with age it will take me a long time to recover (well longer than before). So fingers crossed that doesn’t happen.

6. Do you think you’ll keep running after the bet is over?

Yeah, definitely. I have other ideas for after the bet is over, but I think I will ask you guys what you think should be my next challenge.

7. At university, you attended St. Mary’s, who are well known throughout LUCA for dominating athletics and cross-country competitions. What was it like attending and training at such a prestigious place in terms of athletics?

It was amazing, you could not ask to have been at a better Uni for running. I learnt so much while I was there; so many great athletes were there to learn from. It was one of the best times of my life and I feel so lucky I got to attend.

8. What advice do you have for LUCA runners on balancing student living and athletics?

Ok, this might be cheesy but – believe in yourself and make sure you have a happy medium. It’s hard doing both running and being a student, but try to find what works for you and go all in on it. You will be happier for it.

9. Finally, what’s your favourite session?

My favourite session is 20x200m off 30 seconds. I don’t know why, I just love 200m reps off short recovery.


Good luck to Colin from everyone at LUCA!
If you’ve got any ideas for his next challenge, why not let us know on facebook or twitter, or get in contact with Colin through:
or Instagram

You can also use these to keep up to date on Colin’s training and whilst you’re at it, have a peek at his blog on Athletics Weekly.

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About Emma Butcher 29 Articles
Emma Butcher is a UCL PhD student.