Just days away from her 30th birthday, Eilidh Doyle is resolutely looking forward, not back. With a full set of major championship medals following the acquisition of an Olympic bronze in Rio last August, the Scot could be forgiven for standing back to admire her body of work.
Not so. Instead she has her sights trained on 400 metres victory in next month’s European Indoor Championships once tomorrow’s final tune-up at the Muller Grand Prix in Birmingham is done and dusted.
By custom a hurdler, the majority of her significant accomplishments have come in the relays, without barriers in her path. “A lot of folk forget that,” Doyle says.
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“Because, obviously, I’m part of the 4x400 squad but I never get to argue my case against the 400 metres girls because I’m always doing hurdles. It’s very hard to fit a 400 flat in during the outdoor season with so many hurdles races so it’s nice, indoors, to race against the girls I’ll be up against for the relay and put a bit of a stamp down.”
On the eve of her fourth decade, Doyle has willingly embraced the role of Scottish athletics Mother Hen since Lee McConnell retired three years ago.
Long located in Bath, she has remained an exile rather than an emigrant, regularly signalling her pride in the accomplishments of the domestic Brat Pack, many of whom have emerged serendipitously from her native Perthshire.
“It’s just really nice to see,” she affirms. “I read an interview with Laura Muir saying how she used to see me and Lee McConnell. It’s nice now there’s so many of us. You go on Twitter and see that Laura’s broken a record, Andy Butchart’s broken a record, Callum Hawkins has broken a record Everybody is talking about them in British athletics now, not just Scotland. They’re known worldwide now. I’m proud of that. It’s really good to see.”
Only Muir is expected to accompany her to Belgrade for the Europeans but all will seek an increased stature via the summer’s world championships in London. Doyle has been fortunate to have a career coincide with an unprecedented string of events on home soil, from the 2012 Olympics through to now and, beyond, to next year’s world indoors in Birmingham and the following spring’s European equivalent in Glasgow.
“It’s huge. That’s been the nice thing after every year. People said after the 2012 Olympics, there’d be a bit of a dip but for the British athletes, it’s been brilliant with something else. After 2012, we had Glasgow 2014 and we were buzzing. Then after Rio, it’s been the worlds next.
"I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have had a home Olympics, a home Commonwealths and then, now, a home world championships.”
In Birmingham this weekend, she will line up against many of her hurdles rivals – including Rio gold medallist Dalilah Muhammad and world champion Zuzana Hejnova. But also her would-be successor as British No.1, Lina Nielsen, whose raw speed will be a formidable asset if the 20-year-old can manage a planned transition into the 400m hurdles.
“It will be good for the event,” Doyle notes, “because the depth has come out of the event over the last few years since Perri Shakes-Drayton changed back to the flat. There’s just been me and Meghan Beesley and as soon as one of us gets injured or has a bad season – and Meghan was injured last year – there’s no-one else. So that’s a gap Lina can probably fill.”