I always took running for granted. I tried my hand at any sport I could, doing reasonably well in hockey, judo, football and athletics. Like many decent runners from rural areas, I always cleaned up at school sportsdays, and figured myself rather special as a ten year old.
Secondary school shattered those illusions, and my sprinting dreams died in the dust of larger boys, zooming away into the distance. I ran a little after that, but running was always just something that helped with other sports, compensating for a lack of technical prowess, positional sense, concentration or a greater awareness of the rules. In my last year, I ran the steeplechase, partly because the thought of giant hurdles proved too tempting to resist, and placed well in Ulster.
As a student, I enjoyed regular football and hockey. One football match changed everything. During trials at the start of second year, I stretched out for a loose ball, and my leg was caught awkwardly by a mistimed challenge. I’d never had a serious injury before, but I knew immediately this was different. Long story short, I missed a year of sport, and couldn’t even manage a walking pace that would threaten an intrepid turtle without worrying about pain arriving.
After getting help from a physio, and stretching almost every day for months, I managed what I thought was impossible, and found myself running again. Now, regardless of poor weather or some complaint from a disinclined body or mind, I always try and be grateful I can just put one foot in front of the other again.