Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Runner Liz McColgan accused of battering husband

They were the golden couple of athletics. She, ably supported by him, broke records, brought home medals and united the national pride of their small countries as she dominated the track.

But after almost 25 years it’s all ended in tears.

Long-distance runner Liz McColgan wiped tears from her eyes as she left Arbroath Sherrif Court earlier this week, where she denied charges she battered Strabane-born husband Peter and threw his clothes out of a window at their luxury home near Carnoustie in July.

The Olympic and Commonwealth medallist stands accused of repeatedly punching and prodding her estranged husband, and acting in a threatening and abusive manner which caused “fear and alarm”.

It appears the couple’s “amicable” split, which they announced last November, is no longer amicable. It’s a far cry from when the pair first got together as two up-and-coming young athletes.

They met at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, where a 22-year-old Liz Lynch shot to fame by winning gold in the 10,000m.

She ran into Strabane steeple-chaser Peter McColgan, who was representing Northern Ireland in the 3,000m and 5,000m at the Games, and a year later the pair were married.

It was a partnership which saw Liz rack up two gold medals, one silver, one bronze, smash women’s distance records, and receive an MBE for her exploits.

Her sheer bloody-mindedness to dominate a race made her stand out from other runners and she devoted her life to perfecting her performance.

Running was always at the centre of her life — even on her wedding day she ran six miles, and their honeymoon was based around running competitions.

But her dedication was rewarded when she won a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and when she took gold in the 10,000m at the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991 she publicly declared it had all been down to Peter.

BBC Scotland reporter Colin Blaine described this as the “high-point” in Liz’s career.

“They were in each other’s arms at the final moment,” he recalled. “After Liz won that medal she turned and paid tribute to her husband, so obviously they had been very, very close during their careers and things have just, sadly, gone wrong in the last couple of years.”

Peter would become her manager, and more recently the pair started a health club business.

They have five children together — with the eldest Eilish (21) already carving out her own successful middle-distance running career — but motherhood was not to slow Liz down.

Just months after giving birth to her first child in November 1990, she was competing, and winning in long-distance races around the world — her 1991 Tokyo win coming nine months after Eilish was born.

Their youngest is aged just six and Liz was still competing seven years ago, when she ran in the Scotland Cross Country Championships at the age of 40.

And the Scottish athletics queen has hinted that retiring from the sport was the nail in the coffin of her marriage.

In an interview last year, she said: “Peter hasn’t changed — it’s me.

“From the age of 12, all I have done is run. I never had a life other than running. All of a sudden it’s not running any more, and I have realised I have missed out a lot in my life.

“I realise now I need to take some time to find myself. I’m just looking to be happy.

“When I met Peter we were both in a running environment. It was such a close partnership. We did everything together.

“Of course it’s sad... it’s just that there are things I want to do now that Peter doesn’t.”

When the couple announced their split last November it was reported they had been living separate lives for four months.

At the time Liz said it was “an amicable” break-up. “We are both still living in the marital home while we work things out but we are a separated couple and plan to divorce,” she said last year.

But it looks like living in the same house as her former husband hasn’t been easy.

Liz denies the assault charges.

She is due to appear back in court at a pre-trial hearing on November 10.

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