Elliot Giles started serious athletics at 16 and got injured after two years of competing for three years, with a tibia stress fracture and a damaged Achilles tendon.
Then at 19, Elliot was involved in what should have been a career-ending motorbike crash when he was knocked off his motorbike by a car in central Birmingham.
“My little brother was on the back of the bike at the time and flipped over the top of it. My knee was wedged in between the bike and a car, so I was trapped. I landed on the kerb and hit my head on a bollard so I blacked out,” he told BBC Sport.
Giles does not remember anything until waking up in agony the following day in hospital. In fact, his only memories of the accident come from watching CCTV footage and his brother’s experience of it.
“It was scariest for my brother, because he stood up and saw his big brother on the floor, not moving. Luckily there was a doctor in one of the cars behind who saw the whole thing and helped before the ambulance came.”
Giles had to learn how to walk again and he also faced a mental challenge as he struggled to read or write for a while.
The crash happened when the Birchfield Harrier was home for summer after his first year at St Mary’s University in London. After returning in the autumn, his lecturers asked if they could speak to him. Showing him his first-year essays and comparing them to his second-year writing, they accused him of plagiarism.
“They were like, ‘Genuinely, like this isn’t the same person.’ I had to tell them that I’d been in a bike crash. They retracted that statement immediately when they realised that there was a reason for it,” he said.
“But I could understand it because what I was writing in second year was absolute gibberish. I’d meet the word-count but it was just a whole load of nonsense.”
He re-took is second year so he could “re-gather himself” and says he is now “back to normal”.
Giles was bed-bound for three weeks after the crash and on crutches for three more. By January 2015, was able to slowly jog.
By February, he was beginning to ease into training sessions on the track. But it was only in April that he started properly running again. Fast-forward to July – just one year after the accident – Giles made the British Championships 800m final.
But seven years later, Giles, now 26, has made middle-distance running history by clocking the second-fastest indoor 800m ever and breaking Sebastian Coe’s indoor 800m British record which had stood since 1983
Giles says the main reason he has performed so well recently is because he has finally learnt to enjoy competing.
“I always said if I could race the way I train, I knew I could be one of the best in the world,” he said.
“I train so chilled-out, having a laugh with the lads. But I would go to a race feeling like a caged animal on the start line, even getting heart palpitations. I was always so nervous for days before, that when I got there, I’d be on edge and completely flat.
“Over time I realised that I needed to start enjoying myself too. Something just clicked and I realised that I actually love running and feeling free, beyond the sport itself.
“I don’t even get a flutter of nerves anymore. I just enjoy myself like I do in training.”
This year is the first time he has had real continuity in training without injuries, leading to greater consistency.
“I know [my times] are a massive surprise for everyone else, but I expected them,” he said.
Looking ahead to this summer’s Olympics, Giles is staying level-headed.
“I’m not under any illusion – I ran very quick once. And I don’t expect it to just happen again at the click of a finger. I’ve got to go and back it up and do it some more,” he laughs.