For the last few years, I’ve watched the indoor championships from the comfort of my sofa and it’s something I’ve always wanted to be a part of, but unfortunately due to injury or illness, I’ve always missed out.
Although all eyes were on Laura Muir I still felt a great deal of pressure. And it was a pressure that I was putting on myself as I knew there was a good opportunity to medal. It was likely to be a battle for the bronze and I knew it wouldn’t be easy by any means. I was ranked highly heading into the championships; however there were two girls less than a second behind me, both with faster outdoor pb’s and both of whom have had podium success in previous championships.
Even though I’ve competed in two Olympics, a World Championship and a Commonwealth Games, it was the most nervous I’ve ever been ahead of a race as I knew I should be in the running for a medal.
On Friday morning I ran in the 3000m heat and although I made it through to the final feeling in control, I wasn’t happy with the way my legs were feeling and how slowly they were recovering. This was partly why I made the decision to focus on the 3000m because I knew I would struggle to get my legs back on form in time for the 1500m.
After Friday’s heat, I had a day to recover for the final on Sunday. I did everything I could to get myself feeling better – ice baths, massage, foam rolling – but the thing I couldn’t prevent were my pre-race nerves. I tried to switch off and get to sleep early, but my mind was in over-drive and I awoke Sunday morning having barely slept a wink. It was frustrating but I had to forget about my nerves and focus on the challenge ahead.
The gun went and my legs were slow off the mark. The race started to ramp up in pace and I found my legs taking an age to get going. The top two girls were off and another two girls had started to gap me and with only two laps to go, I was lying in 6th place.
I pushed on and could feel my legs were starting to come back to me a little as I picked up speed. I moved into 4th place with a lap to go and as I went round the top bend I could hear an eruption of cheers willing me on. I could hear a few shouts of ‘Go Eilish!’ in broad Scottish accents, getting louder the faster I ran – they could see me catching up. With 100m to go 3rd place was within reach, I gave it everything I had and sprinted over the finish line to take bronze.
For me, Belgrade was pretty special as not only was it my first ever championship medal, it confirmed to me that leaving the steeplechase behind was the right decision. It wasn’t an easy choice at the time but I had to be realistic with two surgeries and more months spent injured than actually running! After making the Olympic final in Rio last year and now having secured a bronze medal at the European Championships, I know it was the right choice.
Things happen for a reason, injuries occur, illnesses knock you down but eventually you’ll start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and for me that was standing on the podium in Belgrade.