For six years Sally Brown has waited and wondered whether she would get the chance to turn out in a British vest again – but come next week her wish will finally be granted.
Not since the London 2012 Paralympic Games has Brown competed for GB but that will come to an end in Berlin as she takes part at the World Para Athletics European Championships.
Cheering from the sidelines has become a regular part of the T47 runner’s schedule, itching for the chance to compete each time she watches boyfriend Jonnie Peacock run.
But, with injury seemingly a thing of the past and a watching brief now over, the 23-year-old is revelling in the chance to make memories of her own on the track.
“Six years is a long time, I had a few stress fractures on and off, I had an emergency appendix operation one year and it all seemed to be one thing after another,” she said.
“There were times when I was selected and then I’d have to end up pulling out because I’d hurt myself, mentally that’s really tough.
“It didn’t really hit me that much until last year in London. I watched Jonnie running at the World Championships and it was then I realised how tough it was, being in the stadium again with five years having passed since London 2012.
“There was never a point where I properly thought about giving up, there were moments where I was not sure if I could mentally do another year of being disappointed and getting injured, but I knew I was going to keep pushing.
“Even if I hadn’t been selected for Berlin, I think I would have been determined enough to keep going into next year – but there were times where you wonder if you can do that much, it is very hard.”
Watching her significant other compete while being stuck at home has not been easy for Brown but, with Peacock leading the way on and off the track, she hasn’t had to look far for motivation.
With age on her side, another Paralympic Games is far from out of the question for a sprinter who will compete across 100m and 400m during her time in Berlin.
And it’s Tokyo 2020 that is dominating Brown’s attention for the immediate future, though she remains keen to make sure she walks as opposed to leaps on her path to the top.
“Because I’ve been off the team for so long, I haven’t been in this environment of a Championships – so it’s going to be a recap in learning what you have to do in that environment,” she added.
“You have to deal with the call room, deal with the nerves and then you have to race well as well, so it will be a really good progression step for Tokyo and the years to come.
“You have to think about Tokyo, when you’re thinking about training and your goals you have to work out what is realistic.
“I want to go to another Paralympic Games, I want to achieve what I feel I could potentially achieve and I’m not ready to finish with just going to London.
“I stayed home at Rio, I took the dogs out with Jonnie away but in London I actually went and watched him in the stadium – it was quite weird being on the other side and seeing it from that point of view.
“It made me realise that I didn’t want to sit there and watch Jonnie run – I want him watching me run.”
Brown was born with dysmelia in her lower arms which resulted in her left arm not fully developing.
Not that it ever stopped the Northern Ireland runner from taking part in the sports she loved.
She added: “Because I was born that way I didn’t have to figure it out or anything like that, I was just born without it which is a lot easier to deal with as opposed to losing it at whatever age.
“I did sport throughout primary school, did everything from swimming, hockey, netball and loads more, I just did anything as a kid.
“I really enjoyed it, I was good at it and when that’s the case you just want to keep doing it. I wasn’t necessarily that academic either so I just focused on running, really liked it and the rest really came out of nowhere.
“I didn’t know about Paralympic sport before I started it, then before I knew it I was on the team. It was never something I’d thought about, it just happened.”
British Athletics works alongside UK Sport and the National Lottery to support the delivery of success at the world’s most significant sporting events, principally the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They do this via the funded initiative, the World Class Programme, one part of the British Athletics pathway.