Okolo, Wimbley, Doyle, 2018 WIC Birmingham, photo by Martin Bateman
400m medalist, 2018 WIC Birmingham, Doyle, Okola, Wimbley, photo by Martin Bateman
This is a fun piece. In the series (4th) on Eilidh Doyle, she discusses which event, 400m flat or 400m hurdles? It is a fascinating answer. I have watched Eilidh since Goteburg 2013, when she took silver. I watched her take that medal, and the 2018 medal.
Medaling at 400 flat
While Eilidh will be remembered as Britain’s best 400m hurdler for a number of years, taking Commonwealth silver medal twice as well as a European gold, not to mention 12 relay medals, she also took medals at World and European Indoor Championships at 400 flat. Despite those successes, as she describes, the main motivation both times was to prepare for the outdoor hurdles races!
European Championship Gothenburg 2013: second place 51.45
“The interesting thing is that although the 400 flat is not my strongest event but particularly in Gothenburg which Perri won and Heinova and Denisa RosolovÃ¡ were also in the final so that half the finalists were hurdlers. Also although I had won a medal in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games it was my real step up to go to a European Championship and win a medal for Britain.
That whole 2013 season was a real learning curve. I had done the indoors because my coach, Malcolm Arnold, felt I needed to be more aggressive over the first 200 m in the hurdles. He said: “you are far too tentative. We’re going to do an indoor season and I want you to go out really hard over the first 200″. The first race we tried it was the Glasgow Grand Prix and I went out hard and then, I died. Now Malcolm is not someone who often gives praise – you might get a half smile or a wee tap on the shoulder – but I remember coming off the track thinking he’s not going to be happy with the way I died in that run. But that time he gave me a hug and said that’s just what I wanted you to do, to go out hard and then be struggling coming home. And we just built the indoor season on that and every time I went to a race I was dying less on the home straight and it ended up being a phenomenal season.
And it culminated with the silver in the individual and gold in the relay of the European Indoors. It was just a brilliant champs but also one that made me enjoy running the flat 400 indoors. And that was why any time there was an opportunity to do a full indoor season I grabbed it.”
Birmingham 2018 World Indoors: third place, 51.60
Shakima Wimbley, Eilidh Doyle, 2018 WIC Birmingham, photo by Mike Deering / The Shoe Addicts
“We always knew that 2018 was going to be a bit tricky in terms of planning with the Commonwealth Games being in April. That’s why we planned a full indoor season – not really targeting the World Indoors, just thinking that if I was running well enough to make the team that would be great because it would give me some extra races. So things went better than expected and I started the year with a medal.”
In the semi-final Eilidh finished third with only two qualifying for the final. Then Lea Sprunger was disqualified for a lane infringement.
“I was given a second chance. But remember the purpose of the indoors in 2018 was to get me in shape for the Commonwealths in Australia in April. And obviously there were no outdoor races in Britain before that. So I came off the track after the semi-final thinking “I could have done better”, but I wasn’t too disappointed because I was thinking we got the information that we wanted for Gold Coast and I know I’m in good shape. If I can get a couple of races in Australia then everything will be fine.
But as I was walking away from the track there were rumours of disqualifications but as the results of my race were up, I assumed it must be another semi. When I got back to the warm up area my husband Brian and GB coach Stephen Maguire told me there had been a disqualification and I was in the final but there was a possibility of a counter appeal. But I just thought I won’t believe it until I am actually lining up for the final!
When the final came, I thought this is an opportunity you have been given – take it, grab the bull by the horns and go for it. I had a great lane draw with two Americans [Courtney Okolo and Shakima Wimbley] on my outside so I could see what was happening.
I knew the break from lanes was very important. I thought in the semi-final I let Shakima Wimbley tuck in in front of me which really affected my running and meant that I could not run at the speed I wanted to. In the final I decided to get ahead and make sure nothing affected my running. I felt it was make or break – do I go for it or do I settle back but it paid off in the end as it meant I could keep on running and didn’t affect my running. And thankfully it put me in a good position. I just thought I had nothing to lose and it turned out to be one of my best ever 400 races – I tore my calf in the race – I couldn’t quite hold on to silver but to be right in it to be in a tussle with someone like Shakima who has gone to be such a fantastic athlete – it was just great that I could be in amongst it.”
Which is easier to run 400H or 400?
“I think it’s very hard to run the 400 hurdles wrong but it’s a lot easier to run the 400 flat wrong, if you don’t get the timing right. With your stride pattern in the hurdles, you know what pace you are going at and you know what you should be hitting at, say, 200 m. It’s very rare that you would time it wrong. That is more likely to happen in the 400 flat because you can get caught up in what’s happening around you. But saying that I very rarely get the opportunity to run a 400 flat outdoors. My order of preference would be 400 hurdles, 400 indoors, 400 relay and then 400 flat outdoors. I think with the 400 indoors there simply is a way to run it and by doing that 2013 indoor season and running nearly every week I tried to learn the craft of it. Sometimes you get it wrong – like in that 2018 World Indoors semi-final in Birmingham, I didn’t do myself justice but then I was able to do it in the final. So it’s about learning the craft of it. “
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