If I Knew Then

February 16, 2011

I had no idea at the tender age of 7 what kind of life lay ahead for me. All I knew is I could run, fast and I loved it. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine where this gift would take me. The countries I would travel or the people I would met. How I would go from tagging along with my big brother to the local athletic (track) club that trained on a simple grass field just outside our small town, to many years later walking alone onto the world stage at the Olympic Games to compete for my country. Running thought me so much about who I am. It gave a shy child the grounds to build her confidence. Proved that she was tougher than she could ever imagine. Thought her about hard work, commitment and focus. Showed her that pressure could be handled and asses could be handed to her fellow competitors. That defeat, although painful, was part of life but when dealt with and learned from correctly, could be the catalyst for greater things.

Never did I realize that track would be the platform of my independence. Would provide me the ability to buy my first car, my first home, give me the means to indulge in my boot and jeans fetish, allow me to met my future husband and result in my moving to the United States.

However, all of this I had forgotten. I retired from professional track 5 years ago. I’ve long since settled into my new life in the US. Photography is what I do now, with a little pace-making on the side and that chapter of my life felt distant, like a completely different time. That was until yesterday when I opened up an e-mail from a fellow Irish track athlete I haven’t spoken to in a while and in the e-mail he had attached an article from an old Irish track magazine. An article that had a photo, of me at 9 years old, holding a trophy, standing next to my teammates after claiming victory in a 4 x 100m relay for our county, Kildare, at the Irish National Championships. All of a sudden that life wasn’t so distant and the moment captured in that photo, I remember as if it were yesterday. I remember it all. I remember my teammates and my terry cloth Adidas shorts. I remember the race and how I dipped for my life on the finish line to steal victory. I remember the excitement, the celebration. I remember my dad’s beaming smile and triumphant fist pump, he was our coach. I remember how my mother was so nervous prior to the race, she burst the blood vessels on the hand of the lady next to her  she was squeezing so tight. I remember wearing my gold medal around my neck to the fancy restaurant my family and I went to celebrate the victory. I remember it all. Just like it was yesterday and I laugh at how small I was and how that little girl in the photo, smiling shyly as she held the trophy, had absolutely no idea the life that lay ahead of her.

Thank you so much Pierce O’Callaghan for digging up this photo. Its been a bucket of ice water on a life I am guilty of taking for granted. And in case your wondering, I’m the wee girl in the middle of the top photo, holding the shiny trophy.

5 Responses to “If I Knew Then”

  1. Edward says:

    Hi Sis

    My god, talk about a trip down memory lane. Seeing the picture it does seem like only yesterday. I remember standing there watching you get the medal, smiling and saying to myself “That is my sister”.

    Looking back I think most of us knew there was something special about you. You never gave up or backed down no matter the odds. You always were a stubborn like thing :)

    It was always with a sense of great pride watching you progress as an athlete. How you handled your victories with grace and never let it change who you are. When you did lose how you dusted yourself off, learnt from it and came back more determined and stronger. These are characteristics that cannot be taught you either have it or you don’t.

  2. Queen says:

    Wow! I was thinking about this the other day and how when you are young you have no idea how your life will pan out. This was a great entry and makes me want to further document all my trips and adventures so that one day I’m looking back reminiscing in the same way :)

  3. Caitriona says:


    Check us out……….that picture has really made me smile. Thank you.
    Fun times :)

  4. Karen Shinkins says:

    Ed: Your cheque is in the mail. No wait, I’ll do one better, I’ll bring it personally :) See you Sunday.

    Queen: Please do. Take lots of photos, keep a journal. The moments pass so fast.

    Caitriona: I know, hilarious. And now that I think of it, it was your mothers blood vessels my mother burst wasn’t it? P.S I’m glad your standing next to me, cos I look less small.

  5. Caitriona says:

    Yip….it was my mum’s blood vessels that Mrs S burst!

    That picture is sooo funny. You may have been small but at least you didn’t look like a little boy together with looking/being so tiny??!!
    Need to have a word with my mum with regards to the “haircut” me thinks.

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