Jessica Ennis-Hill cannot wait to feel the buzz of competition again as she gears up for her return to athletics.
The Olympic heptathlon champion will make her long-awaited comeback in Manchester a week on Saturday, 22 months on from her last race.
In that time the 29-year-old has given birth to son Reggie, who is now nine months old, and seen her life, and priorities, change completely.
The Sheffield athlete admits there were times when she thought she must be “crazy” for trying to reach the pinnacle of the sport again rather than bowing out at the top, but is relishing the return of the thrill of the race.
“The adrenaline of competing, that feeling of stepping on to the startline and getting in your blocks, that nervous energy and excitement, I’ve not had that for a long time on the track,” said Ennis-Hill, who will race over the 100m hurdles at the Great CityGames in Manchester city centre.
“I’m really looking forward to being there and being back in my competition kit and back on that stage again.”
Reggie, accompanied by husband Andy, will watch his mother in action for the first time, with Ennis-Hill describing the chance to compete and have her son around as “a double bonus”.
“I just really want him to be part of this,” she added. “He wasn’t around for my Olympic success and previous years of competing, so I really want him to be a part of it now and to see me compete.”
Ennis-Hill is certainly not easing herself in gently as she goes up against American world champion Brianna Rollins, Great Britain team-mate and European champion Tiffany Porter and compatriot Lucy Hatton, who won European indoor silver over 60m hurdles in March, on the purpose-built track on Deansgate.
And three weeks later she competes in her first heptathlon since London 2012 when she goes head to head with multi-eventing’s new leading lady, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, in Gotzis.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m very nervous and anxious because I haven’t stepped into that environment for a long time and it’s going to be a really quick race,” she said of the Manchester line-up. “It’s going to be a big challenge for my first race back, but I’ve got to start somewhere.”
Ennis-Hill admitted she was in a “no man’s land” of not knowing what sort of time she might be capable of in Manchester, having been hampered by some Achilles niggles.
“I have had a few little setbacks, my Achilles has been playing up a little bit, but I’ve been able to get some good training done,” she said.
Ennis-Hill knows, though, that 2015 remains a journey of discovery ahead of the real business of trying to retain her Olympic crown in Rio in 2016.
That has meant tempering expectations which previously had always been as high as they come.
A gold medal at a home Olympics, particularly for an athlete dubbed the ‘face of the Games’, would be tough to top, but Ennis-Hill knows the challenge that now awaits her means a repeat in Rio would come mighty close.
She said: “I’m very aware that my last memories of competing really are around London and the Olympics. I was at the height of my career and in the peak shape of my life.
“Although I really want to be back there, I’m not unfortunately going to get back there straight away, it is going to take a bit of time.
“You do put pressure on yourself and I want to be there sooner. I’m just trying to be realistic, take the steps and know that it will come and that next year is what I’m really targeting.
“I’ve obviously had those moments where I’ve thought, ‘what am I doing, I’m crazy’, but I enjoy what I do, I love my sport and I want to give it one last shot.”
Ennis-Hill also revealed she was “still waiting” to hear back from the IAAF, athletics’ world governing body, over her appeal to get her silver medal from the 2011 World Championships upgraded to gold following the drug ban handed to Russian winner Tatyana Chernova.
She said she had “no idea” how long that wait might be, adding: “We just have to sit tight and hope that something is done about it.”