It’s scary how fast time flies. It feels like only last year we were preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and that Tokyo was a far and distant dream. Yet here we are coming to the end of 2019 with 2020 on our horizon.
Every January I write up my goals for the year. It’s something I discuss with my mum and partner, Michael. Although we set my target times tough they are times we feel are within my capabilities. And it’s never just one goal. As a professional athlete, it’s important to be versatile and really extend yourself across a range of disciplines. An athlete who can run personal bests over several events is a dangerous one in competition and that’s something we strive to achieve. This year we noted down times for 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m but each year the events may change. One may be added and another dropped depending on what distance we are aiming for.
These goals are written up on a big bit of paper and stuck to the mirror of my fireplace so that I see them every day. When I’m eating my breakfast on the sofa every morning, doing my hair in the mirror or relaxing in the evening – the times are constantly in my eye line. They sink deep into my subconscious each day.
Some people might find it interesting that we don’t set championship goals such as ‘X place at the World Championships’. We do discuss where we believe I should be finishing at a major championships but in all honesty – it’s not something that I note down. And there’s a reason behind this. When I stand on the start line, I can’t control anyone else. I can control me and what I’m capable of doing. There’s no point in being fixated on a position because you might come lower down in a race – yet have ran a huge personal best. This actually happened to me at the World Championships this year.
In Doha this autumn I felt capable of breaking into the top 8 in the 5,000m and potentially, the top 6 if I had a cracker of a run. Yet I came away with 10th. On paper, 10th was highly disappointing. Two years ago I was 10th at the World Championships in London. Had I made NO progress in those two years? In actual fact, I had made HUGE progress. The Eilish from 2017 is an entirely different athlete to Eilish in 2019. Not only a faster athlete, but a more confident athlete both physically and mentally. I ran almost 20s faster than two years previous, setting a personal best and a new Scottish Record. It’s the perfect example of why we focus on times and what I’m capable of running rather than positions. If you continue to make improvements and knock seconds off your best times – you’re heading in the right direction.
This year we hit 1 out of 3 of my time goals – falling slightly short in the 1500m and 5000m. This was a bit disappointing as 2019 has been my most consistent year of training in terms of injury and illness. It’s the first time, in a very long time, when I’ve had brilliant blocks of training back to back.
However, although I say I fell short we set ourselves very challenging targets! Overall, I still came away with personal bests across the board. An improving athlete, is a happy athlete. Sometimes you need a little luck on your side with good weather and a good racing opportunity.
Focussing on what I can control is something that we have really worked on this year. In previous years, I would be very unconfident and let other athletes dictate the way they wanted the race to be run. And although I haven’t quite nailed it in every race this year it’s becoming more regular and natural for me to run at the pace I feel most comfortable.
In 2019, I managed to push myself higher up the British All-Time lists and world rankings too – 1500m: 17th in the world, 5000m: 12th in the world, 10,000m: 17th in the world. 2019 also brought me two Scottish records – over 5,000m and 10mile on the roads. It was also my first British Title over 5,000m which means I’ve now held a British Champ Title over 1500m, 3000m, 3000m Steeplechase and 5,000m – a feat I’m pretty proud of!
Sometimes a placing on paper, doesn’t quite reflect the year as a whole. But the time I get at the end of every race is 100% my effort, my sacrifice, my hard work. That time is me. All of me. And that is something to be proud of.