After recovering from a serious road accident the 26-year-old from Birmingham has taken an unconventional route to the British indoor 800m record
Six years ago Elliot Giles could barely walk let alone run. In the summer of 2014 he was hospitalised with head, back and career-threatening leg injuries after a car swerved in front of his motorbike in Birmingham city centre.
The accident saw his knee crushed between the car and his bike. Unable to even get out of bed for three weeks, doctors told him he might never run seriously again.
Yet not only has he returned to full fitness but his fine 2021 indoor season continued this week in Toruń when he smashed Seb Coe’s 38-year-old UK 800m record of 1:44.91 with 1:43.63 – a time that also puts him No.2 on the world all-time rankings.
Following his road accident in 2014 he was unable to jog for six months and once said: “I went to a few dark places. It’s a bit of a cliché but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. If you can get through that then racing 800m on a track is no so much of a big deal.”
After the accident he was initially coached by James Brewer, who helped build the foundations of his comeback. Matt Yates, the former European indoor 1500m champion, continued the work, whereas more recently Giles has been part of Jon Bigg’s group and fine-tuned his preparations for the current indoor season in Dubai.
Giles’ record-breaking run in Toruń hasn’t come out of nowhere, of course. He won a hat-trick of British 800m titles from 2016-2018, took European bronze and made the Rio Olympics in 2016, clocked a PB of 1:44.56 outdoors last summer and during this winter has won international 800m races and set a 1500m PB of 3:36.90.
Such was the quality of Giles’ run in Toruń this week, only three Brits – Coe, Steve Cram and Peter Elliott – have run quicker outdoors. Given this, there will be speculation now that Coe’s outdoor record could fall this summer, although Giles will face stiff competition from Jamie Webb, who also ran exceptionally in Toruń, plus Dan Rowden, Jake Wightman and others.
Giles has a self-styled ‘unorthodox’ approach to athletics. Troublesome Achilles tendons are just one of many injuries he has struggled with over the years and he supplements his running training now by working out on an ElliptiGO machine. He has even taken this sizeable contraption abroad, although dismantling and re-building it before and after his flight is no problem for a man who is also a dab hand at DIY.
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Those DIY skills are so good, in fact, that he renovated a clapped out mini bus and turned it into a mobile home. This means he has often avoided conventional nights in a hotel as he travels around the country training and racing in a vehicle that has a cooker and bed. Last winter, for example, he surprised locals at the quiet Cornish track of Par for a work-out during a sight-seeing tour of the West Country.
With a laid-back personality and wide smile, Giles is generally known as a nice guy. As for looks, his tall physique is more reminiscent of Joaquim Cruz than Coe and the Birchfield Harrier was once voted ‘best looking athlete’ by his GB team-mates in a fun poll at a championship.
If you want to find out more about Giles, check out his new video series entitled ‘unorthodox’. It launched this month and moments after his 1:43.63 in Toruń it had just over 800 views.
By the time you click into it, I reckon it might have had quite a few more.