“The past year was a hard one,” Nicole Yeargin declared on Friday in a confessional to mark her 26th birthday. “But you know what? I survived.” There was pain and hurt from the bumps in the road, Scotland’s third-quickest female 400 metres runner of all time acknowledges. Emerging from the darkness, she will hope a vibrant illumination will be found in Budapest where the world athletics championships are set to begin next Saturday morning.

Her expected starter will come in the mixed 4x400 relay but with no individual main course beyond. The consequence of coming sixth at last month’s British trials. One of those travails to endure, and assimilate. Yeargin - raised in the United States to a Fife-born mother and American father - broke through at just the right time to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Fresh out of university then, she will no longer excuse herself as an innocent abroad.

Time has brought self-awareness and the accompanying pressure to learn, then perform. “The past two years that I've joined the (British) team, I've gotten silver,” she asserts. “So it's weird, in a sense, because I was really hoping for gold this year - to not go down, but go up.”

Steps back. With age comes the wisdom to understand why. Following last autumn’s worlds in Oregon, she let the foot come off the gas for too long. “Obviously, you need your mental and physical break,” Yeargin notes. “But I think I really just let myself go a lot.”

The reason? “I was dating a little bit,” she reveals. “I was travelling here and there and I feel like I was having a great time in the moment. But now fast forward, if I'd focused on myself a little more, you never know how far could have gotten this year. So, I think, it’s just taking those little mistakes and just growing.” Head will overrule heart, for now.

And yet, for all the laments, 2022 was a productive campaign. Triple women’s 4x400 bronze, from the worlds and subsequent Europeans, and from the Commonwealths sandwiched in between. The Maryland-born single-lapper has proven herself adept with a baton, enough that she will likely remain among the first-choice quartet in the Hungarian capital.

Relays will, as ever, form a key plank of British medal ambitions. There will be individual expectations on the likes of Laura Muir, Josh Kerr and Keely Hodgkinson in the middle-distances, on Dina Asher-Smith and Zharnel Hughes in the sprints and a resurgent Katarina Johnson-Thompson in a heptathlon which is now all the more open due to the withdrawal of reigning champion Nafi Thiam.

A collective cause is not a secondary consolation for Yeargin, one of eight Scots in the UK line-up. “I'm honestly pumped,” she enthuses. “I love a relay. Last year at European Champs, I wasn't doing too well individually. I was just hitting 52.0 secs, which is what I hit at (British) champs this year. And then I came back and ran 49.7 in the relay. So I'm actually excited to just focus on it.”

She has been schooled well, firstly at the University of Southern California where Barcelona Olympic 400m champion Quincy Watts was her coach. “That's when I started sprouting a lot, because I learned the little details of body positioning from him: when to move, and when to hold a little bit.”

Prior to heading to UK Athletics preparatory camp in Slovakia, plans were tuned at the Texas training base overseen by her present coach, Boogie Johnson. Role models are close at hand from the native contingent there: Brittany Brown, second to Asher-Smith in the 200m at the 2019 worlds. Alexis Holmes, a potential relay foe in Budapest.

And double Olympic gold medallist Dalilah Muhammad, erstwhile rival of the now-retired fellow Scot Eilidh Doyle, who will be favourite to regain her 400m hurdles world title in the absence of the injured Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone.

“She is like none other,” her partner in sweat observes. “Like, I might have a bad day where I don't want to do this. You'll never know Dalilah is having bad day even if she's feeling off or her body's not 100%. She's still going out there to kick your ass.” Creeds to live by, of the sort that might yet make 26 Yeargin’s golden year.