When Nikki Hamblin had surgery in September 2012, the Rio de Janeiro Olympics were on her mind.
But as she had her heels worked on to remove troublesome bone spurs, competing at the Olympics in four years seemed a world away for the middle-distance runner. She took a conservative approach to her recovery and her first run after being under the knife was a one-minute jog followed by a four-minute walk.
Yesterday at the national track and field championships in Wellington, Hamblin ran around the Newtown Park athletics track for two minutes and three seconds. Her official time of 2m 03.23s was enough to claim second in the women's 800m as she finished just behind Canterbury's Angie Smit (2m 1.53s).
Hamblin was a beacon of excitement after the event, her third competitive 800m race in the past three years. She still has to shave two seconds off her time if she wants to qualify for Glasgow's Commonwealth Games this year but she was just pleased to be on the podium.
"It's definitely had its challenges with getting rhythm back and getting momentum in training and I guess even feeling like you're training, not just surviving getting through runs and not being fearful of running," she said of her recovery. "I'm really confident now. The surgery worked, my heels are awesome."
Hamblin hopes to qualify for Glasgow via a local meeting but may head to the US. The 25-year-old claimed silver medals in the 800m and 1500m at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and said Rio was her long-term goal.
"It was always going to be a four-year plan after the surgery."
Hamblin was due to contest the 1500m event at the nationals today, in what shapes as an impressive field with the likes of Smit and Lucy van Dalen expected to be on the start line.
"I do have that other level I think I can get to," Hamblin said.