IRISH Olympian David Gillick has found joy in running again after injury forced him to retire from the sport that had come to define his life.
Speaking at the launch of the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon, the Ballinteer native recalled how his involuntary retirement forced him to confront his demons and learn about himself as a result.
The double European indoor 400m champion – who represented Ireland at the Beijing Games in 2008 – resigned himself to calling a premature halt to his career three years ago.
A mixture of injury and mental health issues saw him fall out of the athletic lifestyle he’d pursued for most of his life, but he found redemption in the life that had given him so much.
“It was like a death,” Gillick told the Dublin Gazette of the calf injury that ended his dream of competing at the 2012 games and ultimately led to his retirement.
“I was lost – I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do. It was finding that purpose.
“You’re going from a career where you’ve mapped out every day, month, week or year, or every four years. For suddenly that to stop, you’re lost.
“It’s taken me a while, but like with anything you put your hand up and say I need help.
“You talk to people and implement the change, I began to understand more about myself and what the triggers were and once I knew that, you have a bit of a toolbox.
“That’s what it’s about, having that toolbox and understanding what you need to do.”
A major part of that toolbox, Gillick found, was running, the absence of which he found was a trigger that enhanced his depressive symptoms.
Armed with the knowledge that healthy body reinforces a healthy mind, Gillick is enjoying life as an RTE pundit and promoting a positive lifestyle with VHI, for whom he’s an ambassador.
“Now I’m back running recreationally but at the time, at the level I was at, it curtailed a lot of stuff.
“Competing at a certain level where you could try and make an income from the sport, that soon diminished. I just couldn’t run that fast.
“My mental health probably wasn’t great post-career and I pinned an awful lot on the result of my athletics.
“It’s only now I realise athletics is something I’m passionate about and I’m getting out and running 5ks in Marlay Park.
“I now understand that is my drug and it’s a trigger for me, and if I’m not out doing that there’s a negative spin-off, so I make sure I do it.”