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Eilidh Doyle Talk

Today I attended a reliability away day organised by work. Part of the day's events included a talk by 400m Hurdles athlete Eilidh Doyle. The talk was a relaxed sit down conversation between Eilidh and Niall Browne, the refinery HR manager.

This post includes some of the main things I took away from the session. Please note, I was not taking detailed notes during the talk and I do not have access to any recordings. As such any "quotes" on this page are paraphrased from my memory and are not true quotes from Eilidh.

Eilidh stated that the London 2012 Olympics were a crucial moment during her running career. Prior to this, all her focus had been on getting to the event and once she was there she was overwhelmed. Within the first 10 minutes of being in the Olympic village, she had met Chris Hoy, Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Harry.

When it came to the event, she was in the process of getting ready at the starting blocks. Someone shouted "Good luck Eilidh!" to which she turned and gave a thumbs up as thanks. At this point, that half of the stadium erupted with cheers. Eilidh thought:

I should not have this sort of power. I just wanted to shrivel up into my shell like a tortoise.

Eilidh then went on to run her worst time of the year. She did get through to the semi-final however did not run any better at that event.

Eilidh came away from the event feeling horrible. She felt bad about effectively having to lie to everyone when the asked 'how did you enjoy the Olympics; it must have been amazing!'

I never want to feel like that about racing again.

Eilidh picked herself up by focusing on why she was doing it. She enjoyed running and competing. Any time she felt uncomfortable again in future, she just asked 'where else would I rather be?' and remind herself that she is doing what she loves for a living.

Here future training focused more on the personal aspects. What she could control. She no longer went to events aiming for a specific place across the finish line, she cannot control how the other competitors do. She focused solely on ensuring she runs the perfect race for herself and doing the best she is capable of.

There was a brief discussion about the coaching relationship. Eilidh moved to Bath so she could work with the coach she wanted and who had previously coach World/Olympic champions. At the start, the coaching was very much one way because he had the experience however, as time has gone on and she has gained in experience, she has started to become more involved in the details of the schedule.

Training is generally split into six week blocks and each block will focus on a specific area such as endurance, speed or hurdle technique

At the end of the conversation part of the session, it was opened up to the floor for people to ask questions. One of the questions asked was how often did she run a full 400m hurdles in training. Eilidh does this twice on a Thursday 20 minutes apart. What was surprising was that this is seen as generally unusual and most other athletes don't do a full 400m in training that often. They may do a shorter session and will do specific training on endurance but apart from events they don't often run a full 10 hurdle 400m race.

Another question asked about the short term goals and if she celebrated the small victories achieved at the end of the six week blocks. Eilidh mentioned that she didn't often celebrate the small things, obviously she celebrates the big wins, but most of the time it is more about focusing on the things that are within her control and ensuring she does what she needs to so she can run the best she can.

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