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Back on track for Gillick

Wednesday, 27th September, 2017 5:49pm

It's been a topsy turvey five years for David Gillick since his retirement in 2012.

They say what's rare is wonderful but it took a few years for that sentiment to show any sort of meaning to Gillick.

After spending the majority of his life training daily, he found himself in a position with absolutely nothing to do which was certainly new and alien-like to him and, eventually, he realised it was a state he was not comfortable in, despite his best efforts to leave athletics in his past.

Injury-ravaged at the end of his career, combine that with a few disappointing results and that was it for Gillick, in 2012 he decided he was done. The Dublin athlete has been frank about his dealings with depression since then; he's had dark days where he struggled and, as it turned out, life without athletics was not the attractive prospect he once thought it would be.

“The thing with being an professional athlete, we're perfectionists,” he says. “I spent my whole life training, daily, monthly and yearly and with the injuries and that, I was done at the end. For a while I thought I was totally done with it, but I found I wasn't in a good place without it.

“How can you go from something to being such a huge and significant part of your life to just one day, it being totally over?

“I'm back racing now, tipping away with the auld lads sure! But it's great. Every athlete has the same goal and focus, no matter what the level, everyone has their own Olympics. It was a body shock when my career ended, athletics was a drug to me and I went cold turkey.

“I had to build my self-esteem back up, my confidence. I started seeing a counselor who I still see now and I know the triggers which makes a huge difference. I know I need to be out and active, that's very important for me,” he says.

Gillick qualified for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, a dream he had spent his life chasing.

You see, Gillick won the European Indoor 400m title in 2005 as a 21 year old, a title he successfully defended in 2007, and from there on in all the talk was that Gillick was worthy of success on the biggest stage in the world – the Olympics.

Onlookers can speculate but Gillick spent every waking minute with the belief that he would be an Olympic finalist, at least. To him it wasn't a dream, it was his destiny. Why else would he spend his life pushing every one of his limits so hard?

Every action has a purpose and that was his. However, to cut a long story short, Gillick contracted a virus prior to the Olympics which travelled with him and eventually wiped him, he fell over the finish line in fourth place in the 400m heats and that was it - in an instant, his lifelong dream was over.

Reflecting, he says: “I was devastated with how Beijing went. I wanted to get a tattoo of the Olympic rings but I felt I couldn't do that after that. Then as it turned out London and Rio didn't happen for me and I never got those rings.

“It took me a long time to realise that even if Beijing didn't go as I wanted to, it was still such a huge thing in itself to be an Olympian. How many people get to say that? I am proud of everything I've done but it's taken me a while to appreciate my career.

“When you're running, you're always thinking about the next thing, we're perfectionists and we have an expectation of ourselves; when we don't reach it, at the time it feels like a failure but it's not, it just took me a while to realise that. It was my birthday four weeks ago and I got the tattoo!”

The Irish team had a less than memorable performance at the recent World Athletics Championships, and although Gillick believes Irish has much to offer in terms of its athletes, it's elsewhere that the problems lie.

“You're only ever as good as your last race and we didn't do too well at the Worlds. The structures are in place, we have the National Sports Centre in Abbotstown which is a brilliant facility.

“We are producing the athletes, the underage results show that but the problem is the next step, the coaching. We're not at all level in that playing field, we need to be employing coaches in full-time positions but instead it's still on a voluntary basis – we're up against the best in the world who have that, how can we compete with that?

“That transition from youth to senior is so important, it's not about the guy winning the race necessarily but about the runner who didn't win and where they can improve. What went wrong? That's when coaching steps in, it's the next generation we need to be thinking about.”

Does Gillick hold aspirations of coaching Ireland's youth to titles and race meets and spent his whole life training for?

“I would love to but I can't. I have a young family, it's not financially viable. I have to support them, I'm doing my bit that I can and I help out in my club, Dundrum Athletic Club, and I do a bit of mentoring but I have priorities and that's the problem. I would love to give back.

“You look at the athletes Ireland has produced, why not get the likes of myself and Derval (O'Rourke) involved? That's what needs to happen, paid coaches need to be made a reality.

“There is an abundance of knowledge there, it's just not being used.”

As he said, Gillick is still involved and this weekend he will be part of Vhi's parkrun which takes place across 80 locations in Ireland on Saturday.

Valerie Mulcahy will be in attendance in Ballincollig and she will will be on hand to lead the warm up for parkrun participants before completing the 5km course alongside newcomers and seasoned parkrunners.

Vhi is calling on walkers, joggers and runners to join the Ballincollig parkrun on Saturday 30 September to celebrate its partnership with parkrun Ireland.

parkrun Ireland supports local communities in organising free, weekly, timed 5k runs every Saturday at 9.30am and is open to all ages and abilities.

There will also be a Vhi relaxation area at the finish line with free massage balls being given out on a first come first served basis and a qualified physiotherapist will also be on hand to guide participants through a post event stretching routine.

That aside, Gillick is kept busy with his one and a half year old, Oscar, and he says, life is all about his son now.

“We're just back from holidays in Portugal and it was definitely different having to leave the pub a bit earlier than what we'd be used to!

“He's not quite a runner yet, he's a bit of a wobbler in fact! My parents threw me in to every sport when I was younger and athletics is what stuck so he'll do the same but there's a few years yet before we've to think about that!”

To register for a parkrun near you visit parkrun.ie.

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