After three decades immersed in athletics, there are not too many times now when Eilish McColgan is stepping into the unknown.

Next Sunday, however, will be one of those unusual occasions when she stands on the start line not knowing quite what to expect as she will make her marathon debut in London.

For all the thousands upon thousands of miles she has run in training over the years, she is treading new ground.

“I’ve never run 26 miles,” she says. “I don’t actually know many athletes who do the full distance in training.

“We coach amateur runners and we advise not to do more than 22 miles in training and that’s what I’ve been doing myself. There is the mental aspect of can you actually get round 26 miles? But I’ve done 22-mile runs and I had no doubt at the end of them I could have run another four-mile loop. So it’s not so much the distance for me that will be tough, it’s going to be the pace of it.

“There’s a big difference between a long run and a hard, hard effort for that long. So for me, that’s what’s unknown and not something I’ve particularly tested in training.

“I think that’s something that only comes with the experience of racing.”

McColgan is certainly not easing herself in gently. London boasts the strongest women’s marathon field ever assembled with defending champion and world 10k record holder Yalemzerf Yehualaw, marathon world record holder Brigid Kosgei and Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir all going to be on the start line.

However, with the 32-year-old from Dundee having had the year of her life over the past 12 months, she could not be in a better frame of mind.

McColgan has been on the international scene since 2012, when she competed in her first Olympic Games, but it was in 2022 that she really grabbed the spotlight.

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Commonwealth gold in the 10,000m in Birmingham was the most memorable of her performances, but that win was accompanied by a raft of Scottish, British and European records both on the track and on the road.

McColgan has continued her sparkling form into 2023, with her opening appearance of the year a run over 10,000m of 30 minutes 0.86 seconds, breaking Paula Radcliffe’s long-standing national record and smashing her own personal best by 19 seconds.

That was followed by a win at the Berlin Half Marathon two weeks ago in yet another British record and McColgan admits that despite the trepidation that is certainly present about running her first marathon, she is in a confident mood.

“I’m really pleased with my runs. To have come away with British records and such big PBs, I was really happy,” she says. “It’s given me quite a lot of confidence knowing that the training I’m doing is really suited to me.

“I know for sure I can run a good 5k, a good 10k and a good half marathon so now the question is whether or not I can run a good marathon because it’s something I’ve never done. I’m certainly in a better place to run the marathon now than I ever have been but how I actually cope with it, we won’t know till race day.”

The one, and perhaps only, down side of McColgan’s spectacular year is that expectations from observers are now sky-high regarding what she is likely to achieve in London.

However, McColgan is far too pragmatic and too experienced to expect anything spectacular and instead, she sees next weekend’s race as the start of her marathon journey which will, she hopes, lead to the start line of the Olympic marathon in Paris next summer.

“This first marathon is about getting the experience of it,” she says. “I’m in a much stronger position than I’ve ever been and so I’ve given myself the best opportunity to run a good marathon but there’s a lot of things that come into play on the day with regard to the mental side of it, the physical side of covering that sort of distance at that fast pace and the fuelling side of things to make sure I don’t hit the wall.

“There’s a lot more elements that come into a marathon than do on the track or on the shorter road races.

“I know other people maybe expect me to go to London and be competitive but that’s not realistic.

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“I’m going into the best marathon field that’s ever been assembled so I have to be realistic with what I can achieve within that. I’m certainly not going in there to win.”

McColgan may not be targeting a podium place but she is not lacking goals for the race.

With the 2024 Olympic Games already in her mind, qualification for Paris is of primary importance – and ideally sooner rather than later – but she also has her mum, Liz’s, one remaining time that is faster than her in her sights over those 26.1 miles in London.

“I have a few goals for London,” she says. “Firstly, I want to get round in one piece. That’s my No.1 goal – to get round and feel like yes, I want to do the marathon at the Paris Olympics,” she says.

“Secondly, this is the final PB that my mum still has of 2 hours 26 mins. Steph Twell took her Scottish record a couple of years ago when she ran 2:25 so I have that in my head as a time target.

“I do feel I’m capable of running faster than my mum and getting that Scottish record and it’d be a triple-whammy because it’d be a qualifying time for the Paris Olympics too.

“I’d like to be competitive against the British girls and if I can do that, I think I can knock those three goals off in the process.

“If I can achieve all my personal goals, that’d be a good day for me.”