Beth Dobbin column: Hard work and perseverance can take you a long way - in sport and in life!

I joined Doncaster Athletic Club when I was 12 and I have some very fond memories of those early years.
Doncaster's Beth Dobbin celebrates winning the 200m final at the British Championships in 2018. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty ImagesDoncaster's Beth Dobbin celebrates winning the 200m final at the British Championships in 2018. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Doncaster's Beth Dobbin celebrates winning the 200m final at the British Championships in 2018. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Prior to becoming a member I had already started going out for runs with my dad Jim – who many of you will remember played for Doncaster Rovers as a midfielder – on a weekend.

I also took up cross country at school and I used to finish amongst the medals at a county level.

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My dad took me to the newly-laid track down at the Keepmoat Stadium and it was here that I got to try out all the different events to see what I was best at.

Beth Dobbin, pictured in 2012.Beth Dobbin, pictured in 2012.
Beth Dobbin, pictured in 2012.

I was put in a sprints group and absolutely loved the training. I was in my element.

I had already learnt from going for runs with my dad that hard work is required to do well in sport and from a young age I fell in love with the feeling you get after you’ve pushed yourself to your limit in a training session.

I was never shy of working hard and that’s something I still pride myself on to this day. My mum recalls a lot of other athletes’ parents would want their child to partner up with me for sessions as they knew I would give it my all and never miss a rep.

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I used to always say in my head ‘You’re only cheating yourself’ during a rare moment when I would consider taking a shortcut.

I feel like this has been a recurring theme throughout my athletics career.

I knew when I joined up with my first coach, John Blackshaw, that I definitely was not the most talented athlete in the group. I think John knew this himself, as did my parents. But one thing I did have was hunger and drive to be the best version of myself that I could possibly be.

When I was 14 I suffered a seizure completely out of the blue and was diagnosed with epilepsy. The seizure was so severe the doctors initially thought it was a stroke as I had lost the movement throughout one side of my body and I couldn’t move or talk. I was put on medication to prevent future seizures like this.

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Fortunately, I made a full recovery and only missed a few months of training.

When I returned I noticed I was a lot slower than I was previously. The medication came with a lot of side effects which meant that I was often very tired and lethargic and this began to show in my athletics.

I began doing quite badly in my athletics races. It was such a shame as I hadn’t lost the love for my training and was still as committed as ever but this just wasn’t showing in the times I was running.

Fortunately, when I was 17, my doctor suggested that I could come off my medication as I had been seizure free for several years.

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I did and, although this came with a lot of worry and anxiety that I was going to have another seizure, I also began feeling a lot more like myself.

I started running several seconds quicker than I did when I was on my medication which in sprints is huge.

I went from not being able to qualify for the English Schools (a prestigious competition where you compete against athletes from schools all over the country) to qualifying comfortably and winning an unexpected silver medal.

The medal felt like all of the perseverance after everything I had been through had been worth it.

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It also really made me think, if I can achieve this after being off my medication for a matter of months, what could I do now I’m healthy?

I think I have gone on to exceed all of my own expectations by representing Great Britain. I still have to pinch myself when I think about how far I’ve come!