A victory for perseverance: The rise of British champion sprinter Beth Dobbin

Beth Dobbin. Picture: B&O Press Photo
Beth Dobbin. Picture: B&O Press Photo

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

In the case of Sprotbrough sprinting sensation Beth Dobbin, the old proverb has never been so apt.

Beth Dobbin, pictured as a teenager.

Beth Dobbin, pictured as a teenager.

And for any aspiring young sportsman or woman, or indeed young person in general, the inspiring story of Doncaster’s newest British champion should be compulsive reading.

Because hard work really does pay off in the end.

Beth, the daughter of former Doncaster Rovers midfielder Jim Dobbin, proved that in spectacular style on Sunday when she clocked 22.59 into a headwind at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium to not only become Britain’s 200m champion, but qualify for next month’s European Championships and become the seventh fastest Brit of all time at that distance.

Representing Scotland, owing to her father’s Dunfermline roots, Dobbin’s time also set a new championship record, Scottish record and personal best.

Jim Dobbin

Jim Dobbin

This came just weeks after the Edinburgh AC athlete broke Sandra Whittaker’s Scottish 200m record of 22.98, which had stood since the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, with a time of 22.84 in a UK Women’s League Premier Division match at Eton.

Dobbin just keeps on getting faster.

As an under 17, around the time when she was still representing Doncaster Athletic Club, she ran 26.8.

As an under 20, during her time at Loughborough University, she ran 25.7.

Beth Dobbin, second left.

Beth Dobbin, second left.

As a junior, Dobbin was always playing catch up with the quickest girls. She was nearly always just missing out.

But now, aged 24, thanks to her sheer perseverance and unwavering resolve, she stands on the brink of international glory and is determined to enjoy her moment in the spotlight.

You have only heard half the story too.

She has only recently opened up about her battle with epilepsy, a condition she has now got to grips with but during her early teens left her learning to walk and talk again after a severe seizure.

She combines her training with two jobs.

Unlike other athletes, she has no sponsor or funding.

She missed out on the Commonwealth Games in April by one-hundredth of a second.

But she never gives up - and that is the resounding message she passes on to hundreds of children when she somehow finds the time to fit in school visits.

“That hard work ethic was drilled into me from a young age,” said Dobbin.

“I think you have that or you don’t.

“My father taught me that.

“I’m living in Loughborough now and I have no funding or sponsorship so I do have to work as well.

“After I graduated I went into a graduate job working with children with autism.

“It was very hectic. I’d leave the house at 7.15am to get into work at 8. I’d be there till 4pm and then I’d be at the track for 5pm and I’d be there for three or four hours.

“I wasn’t getting in until 9pm and then you’ve got to cook your meals and get enough sleep. It was just non-stop.

“I did that for a year and now I’ve got a few different jobs just to pay the bills.

“I’ve got a part time receptionist job so a typical day would be 7am till 3pm and then getting to the track at 4pm, so I do have that break in between. I’m finishing training at about 8pm so it’s more manageable this year.

“Most of the athletes I raced against at the weekend either have sponsors or funding,” she added. “Most of them are full time athletes.

“The problem I’ve had is that I’ve never necessarily been that successful as a junior.

“I’ve progressed each year.

“Whereas a lot of sprinters are good from a young age and they hold onto that.

“Because I wasn’t, I haven’t received any funding.”

Beth owes more than just her work ethic to her footballing father, who had two spells with Doncaster and settled in the area after initially moving down from Celtic to join Rovers in 1984.

For it was Jim’s active lifestyle that sowed her seeds of interest in athletics, and also his Scottish roots which helped pave her way in the sport. “As I was growing up he was always doing a lot of exercise around the house,” said Beth, a former pupil at Copley Junior School, Ridgewood School and Danum School.

“He was always going for runs at the weekend.

“I was at primary school at the time, maybe Year 5 or Year 6, so I started going with him.

“We’d run for a good two or three miles and at that age that’s quite a long way to go.

“So that got me into it through the cross country route and then it was later on at secondary school where my teachers noticed that I was quite quick and beating some of the boys in PE.

“They suggested I went down to Doncaster Athletic Club so I did and it just progressed from there really.

“I was with Doncaster for a good few years until I moved to Loughborough to university. But it all started in Doncaster.

“My mum’s from Doncaster and my dad’s from Dunfermline in Scotland,” she continued.

“As a junior athlete I was actually approached by England twice to represent them.

“I remember making the decision with my coach. Obviously my dad is Scottish and he got me into athletics and we’ve always been very patriotic.

“I think if you’ve got Scottish, Irish or Welsh in you, you are very patriotic.

“I always just remember thinking it would be so good seeing as my dad got me into athletics to pay him back.

“My mum would be proud of me whatever I did but my dad’s a bit harder to please almost, so I thought I really want to make my dad proud.

“The hard thing was turning down England twice.

“But when Scotland approached me then I knew it had been worth the wait.”

It certainly has.

And she has unquestionably made her whole family proud.

Next month Beth will fulfil her dream of wearing the Great Britain vest at a major competition when she lines up at the European Championships in Berlin.

Her path to the big time has been a bumpy, difficult one, to say the least.

But all those early mornings and long days have reaped their reward.

Knock-backs and negativity have been replaced by success and opportunity.

And if Dobbin continues to quicken she has every chance of medalling on the biggest stage of them all.

“The short term aim is obviously the European Championships,” she said.

“The following year it’s the World Championships so I’d love to make the team for that.

“And then in 2020 it’s the Olympics so that would be great to make the team for that.

“If I carry on running the times I’m running now that should definitely be a possibility.

“There’s also the Commonwealth Games, because I’ve missed out on the last two.

“The last one, in particular, I was just one hundredth of a second off the standard, so I feel like I missed out there.”

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Any organisations interested in sponsoring Beth should email bmd94@hotmail.co.uk.


Beth Dobbin gave this reaction to BBC West Midlands upon discovering she had become the seventh fastest Brit of all time in the 200m:

No way, no way!

That’s sick!

I can’t believe that. Oh my god. I have not had media training. Oh this is embarrassing!

I’m just like, that is crazy.

I don’t even know who I have ran faster than but I’m sure it’s people I’ve looked up to from a really young age.

The girls I’m racing against today, I’ve watched them for years.

Back in 2014 I was watching them at Europeans. Commonwealths, just being like ‘oh my god, I want to be like them when I grow up’.

And now I’m getting to race them and it’s just crazy.

I mean they’re only a year older than me but it’s just crazy.

On the race itself: I was so terrfied because I felt like I was in about fourth coming off the bend and obviously I wanted to finish top two.

I wanted to win but top two was to qualify for the Europeans.

I was thinking ‘Beth, you’ve messed this up big time’.

I remember my coach saying ‘there’s a chance you might be behind at 120m, it’s not a race to 120m, your strength is your finish, so just relax and you can win it’.

I just stayed the most relaxed I could and I did the mega dip that the hurdlers do at the end.

And on the prospect of representing Great Britain: Oh my days I will literally wear it [the Great Britain vest] to bed, I’m going to wear it to the track, I can’t wait.

I’ve been working for a GB vest for about six years now and for many years I’ve always just missed out at senior level.

Now to be British champion, going to the Europeans, going to the World Cup, I am literally ecstatic!