21st May 2020


Beth Dobbin is used to living life in the fast lane – a sprinter who has earned honours as quick as she runs over the past two years – but now it’s time for slow and steady to win the race.

Dobbin enjoyed a remarkable breakthrough in 2018 with Scottish records, a British title, a maiden GB vest and a place in a European final all coming in the space of a couple of months.

That rapid progression continued in 2019 as she once again lowered that Scottish 200m record at the Muller Anniversary Games, and she made her World Championship debut in Doha in the autumn.

There was no suggestion, with the Tokyo Olympic Games to hope for in 2020, that Dobbin would slow down but she has been forced to by its postponement as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Dobbin is open enough to admit that, in her context, the postponement has been hard to take but such are the current circumstances she is now taking things slowly over a return to the track.

She said: “It’s been a whirlwind. At the start [of lockdown] the Olympics were going ahead, now it is all about next year. There are bigger issues of course.

“I have had a good few years and I felt like I was building on that and I wanted to then capitalise on that and have another good year. I do feel like we’ve been robbed of a year of our career. You can’t go on until your 60, the limit is mid 30s at the latest and you are lucky to even get that.

“Everything is aimed towards the 2020 season, I am looking at the positives like having another year to work on but at the same time I didn’t feel like I needed that. Everything was going to plan. It is frustrating when you feel like that you are ready for that date but I am sure this time next year, it will be the same situation and I’ll be ready for it. It is not the end of the world.

“The trickiest thing is being confident with what sessions we should actually be doing right now. Normally you know what you are training for and you know for definite that you are going to start your season in May and the Olympics are on this date and the British Champs are on this date and you know all those dates.

“Whereas now we have been told it is August, September, October but is that going to happen and what sessions do we do. When the lockdown happened we almost went back to a winter training block because a lot of it was on grass. We are aiming to race August-September time and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. It is better to be prepared.”

Dobbin’s ascension could actually be said to have started in 2017 as she ended the season having lowered her personal best in the 200m by 0.63 from 23.94 to 23.31.t European Championships.

It was the fact that it fell a further 0.72s in 2018, thanks to that Scottish record of 22.59 on the way to that British title, plus sixth place at the European Championships, that captured attentions.

Dobbin ended 2019 with another personal best, and Olympic standard, of 22.50, a semi-final place at the World Championships and feeling that she belongs with the fastest women in the world.

“It has been a big learning curve because I never made any junior teams so it has very much been learn as you’re on the biggest stage that there is. There is no room for error,” she added.

“I went to the Europeans and really, really enjoyed that and I think maybe naively that the World Championships was going to be a similar vibe but it was completely different. It was this next level.

“For me Doha was a huge, huge learning curve. It didn’t feel similar to Europeans at all but it was nice to have that stepping stone and I imagine the Olympics will be a step on from that. It is nice that I have had each year to build up so that when the Olympics come around I am ready for that because I have done it gradually almost.”

Making all of Dobbin’s achievements all the more remarkable – she was also invited onto the British Athletics World Class Programme for the first time in 2019 – is that she has to manage epilepsy

This week marks National Epilepsy Week and Dobbin is happy that her achievements on the track have raised awareness and resonated not just those with epilepsy by other conditions too.

She said: “It’s not just been people with epilepsy [get in touch] because I have spoken about how mentally it can be quite worrying thinking about having another seizure.

“I’ve had people get in touch who have a nut allergy [for example] and I think it is so helpful because when I was worrying about having another seizure I was so embarrassed and I didn’t tell anyone for a good two years, I just suffered on my own.

“I remember Googling anxiety about having a seizure to see if anyone else was experiencing the same thing. If people can see that that is quite a normal side of it then that can help.”