European 400 metres hurdles champion Eilidh Doyle introduces herself in the first of a series of regular articles leading up to this summer’s Olympic Games. She also maps out her training regime and race schedule as the countdown to Rio hots up
I thought it would be best to introduce myself to start off with. I’m originally from Perth but am now based in Bath. As I’m a full-time athlete, I spend pretty much all of my time training and competing. I’m also a qualified PE teacher and I worked at Perth Grammar School until I decided to focus completely on athletics in 2011 – I’m not sure if I’ll go back to teaching after I retire from athletics. London was my first Olympic Games but the most successful year of my career to date was 2014 when I won Commonwealth silver in my home Games and then European gold just a few weeks later. Athletics definitely takes up most of my time, but one of my biggest interests outside my own sport is that I’m a huge Hearts supporter. I don’t have many superstitions but one of the few I have is that I wear a Hearts wristband every time I race. I don’t get to go to their matches as often as I’d like, but I always keep up to date with their progress.
Olympic year is always special, but I definitely feel really different to how I felt this time last year. That 2014 season was such a huge one for me with a home Commonwealth Games that when it was over I felt a bit of an anti-climax. At the start of 2015, I had the World Championships to look forward to, but I also had my wedding so I felt a bit more distracted than usual. But this year I feel like I’ve got a new love for athletics and I can’t wait to start racing. That’s also because it’s Olympic year and there’s that same buzz that 2014 had.
It’s only a few weeks until my season starts – my first race is due to be the Diamond League meeting in Doha on May 6, so I’ve got a few weeks of hard training in Bath until I get going. I’ve just spent the week up in Scotland for Easter which was really nice because I saw all my friends and family who I’ve not seen since Christmas. It was great to have a down week because I’d had a tough start to the year training-wise. I went to Tenerife in February for a warm-weather training camp. A lot of my training group were doing the indoor season so it was really for them to get some speed work done before it kicked off. As I wasn’t doing any indoor meetings, it was the chance for me to go somewhere warm and get some hurdles training done. It can be really tricky to get good hurdles sessions in Britain over the winter because it can be blowing a gale and freezing cold. It was great to get some quality sessions out in the Canary Islands, but not so much fun when the others were doing short, speed sessions and I was slogging away doing 300s. The nice weather made up for it. Since then, I’ve been pretty much non-stop with hard training, so it was great to be able to relax last week.
I’ve done the indoor season for the past few years, but because I got married in October my winter training started a little bit later than usual. My coach and I decided it was best not to rush to get into shape. I thought I wouldn’t be too bothered about not running on the boards, but actually I did miss it. When I saw everyone else racing I really wanted to be out there myself. I’ve not raced since September and it’s a long spell to go without competing.
I’m really jumping in at the deep end by starting my season with a Diamond League meeting. I’m doing things a little differently this year. Normally I’d go away in April for a pre-season training camp and then begin racing at the start of May, but not anything too tough. But this year I’m planning to return to Tenerife for some more training after Doha, then hopefully compete in the Rome and Birmingham Diamond Leagues. I want to get as many top races in as possible to get that competitive edge. My trouble is that often I take a few races to get going at the start of the season, but this year I have to be firing on all cylinders right from the start.
The Olympic trials are in June and I need to run well there. Rio is at the back of my mind just now but my main focus at the moment is my first race in Doha. Once the trials are over, hopefully I’ll be able to start focusing completely on Rio. I feel really different compared to the last Olympic cycle and I actually feel like a totally different athlete in a lot of ways. For my first Olympic experience four years ago to be a home Olympics was quite overwhelming, whereas now I feel like I should be there.
I feel like everything’s going really well so far in my build-up. As well as my training going well, my husband’s moved down to Bath and it’s made everything so much easier for me. We got married at Glenskirlie Castle in Stirlingshire and it was an amazing day. It’s great that Brian’s moved down to Bath – I’m so settled here now and I don’t need to be thinking about when I’m going back to Scotland for a weekend. I’ve got my dog, Ben, down here too and it’s so nice to have them there when I get home from training. Ben’s a Rottweiler and he was at our wedding, too – wearing a tartan scarf. It’s great having a bit of normality in Bath and I definitely feel more relaxed and happier. Brian’s a soft tissue therapist so I’ve been taking advantage of that. I’ve also really been abusing the fact that he’s around all the time. It means that I’m keeping on top of any niggles and that makes a huge difference. Brian was an athlete which is great because he totally gets what I need to do and the lifestyle that I need to lead. And he understands that I need to be away a lot, especially during the season. But we both know that this won’t last forever.
Away from athletics, I’ve been reading about the discussion about equal pay in sport. I totally agree that there should be parity and actually, in athletics, we’re lucky that it’s not really an issue. Our funding is completely based on performance – whether you’re male or female is irrelevant and that’s the way it should be. In tennis, I get as much enjoyment watching Andy Murray as I do watching Serena Williams, so I totally agree that they should be paid the same. But more than anything, it’s amazing that these issues are still coming up. It’s so disheartening because you think how far we’ve come and then comments like those a few weeks ago can set it all back again. It’s pretty delusional to think that men deserve to be paid more. Hopefully we’ll get to the stage where everything’s equal. Thankfully, it’s never affected me. Anyway, in Scotland the female athletes are higher profile than the male athletes because we’ve had better results than the guys in recent years. That’s how it should be: it should be all about performance.
So I’m back down in Bath and back into hard training. Over Easter, I wasn’t ridiculously strict with my diet. My mum always gets me an Easter egg and Brian’s mum does, too. So I thought I’m not going to totally deprive myself! I was still ticking over, though. I actually feel worse if I don’t do anything, so I took Ben out and did some hills and some shuttle runs. That was enough to keep me feeling good and ready for this next block of training.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eilidh Doyle (formerly Eilidh Child) is a 400 metres hurdler who has represented GB for the past seven years. She is reigning European champion, as well as having won two Commonwealth silver medals and two World Championship bronze medals. She was a member of Team GB at London 2012 and is currently training for Rio 2016. Eilidh is originally from Perth but is now based in Bath with her husband, Brian, and her dog, Ben. Eilidh’s latest articles.
Eilidh was talking to Susan Egelstaff
Susan Egelstaff is an Olympic badminton player who competed at London 2012, as well as representing Scotland at three Commonwealth Games, winning two bronze medals. She retired in the aftermath of the London Games after a 12-year international career. Having written the occasional article for newspapers while still competing, she decided to try and make sports journalism a job. Susan is now a columnist and sports writer with The Herald, The Sunday Herald and The National and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Scotland. Susan is also heavily involved with the Winning Scotland Foundation, a charity which helps children achieve their goals. Susan’s latest articles.