David Gillick’s resumé from the past seven years is impressive.
He is the author of two cookbooks, a regular sports contributor for RTÉ, a public speaker and consultant in corporate wellness and performance, an ambassador for multiple brands and a member of the Olympic Federation Of Ireland Athletes’ Commission.
The former Olympian, who remains one of Ireland most successful sprint athletes, says when he looks at where he was, who he was, seven years ago and compares it to his life today, he has to pinch himself.
“I am very fortunate,” he says, “I am lucky.”
The seven-year mark is significant because it represents the time that has passed since Gillick considered taking his own life – something the former 400m runner has spoken publicly about in the years since.
Reflecting on that period in his life, Gillick says it was an “awful time”, where he saw no future for himself that didn’t involve the sport.
“I loved being an athlete. All I wanted to do as a kid was be a professional sportsperson.
“I had a goal. I had a purpose. Every single day I was working towards a competition, an Olympics. It kept me motivated, inspired, and then it was just all gone.”
The two-time European Champion had aspired to reach three Olympic Games – Beijing, London and Rio. But it wasn’t to be, with the Dubliner missing out on the London games in 2012 after tearing his soleus, a calf muscle. Two years later, at 30 years of age, he reluctantly called time on his athletic career ahead of Rio.
Everything in his life, he says, his confidence, his self-worth, his drive, it had all come from running.
“I was always the runner,” he says, “when I retired I thought, ‘I am nothing”.
But, looking back at his 30-year-old self, he believes his early retirement was “probably one of the best things that could have happened” to him.
“It forced me to reevaluate what’s important. To reevaluate who am I and what do I really want to do with my life.”
And it forced him to get help. “I still see a counsellor,” he says.
The departure from the track has also enabled him to revisit his relationship with exercise.
“Coming from sport, running was all about performance, getting faster, fitter, stronger, medals, everything hinged on that.
“Now I exercise for fun, for enjoyment. Doing a parkrun, kicking the football with the kids, going swimming, that’s what it’s about.
As kids, we get involved in sports because it’s fun, and I am getting back to that. I’ve come full circle.
Gillick and his wife Charlotte are parents of three children, with five-year-old Oscar, three-year-old Olivia and nine-month-old Louis keeping them busy.
Is there any chance they might follow in daddy’s footsteps?
“Oscar is at an age now where he’s playing soccer and GAA with the local club, he goes to the junior parkrun in Marley Park. Olivia is doing gymnastics and we bring them both swimming and all that. But I don’t want to push my kids into anything.
“What I want to do is what my parents did – just give them the opportunity without any pressure.”
Talk turns to Gillick’s support of Vhi’s latest campaign, ‘Start With…parkrun’, w