SAMMI Kinghorn evidently likes a challenge. Faced with the dilemma of having none of her traditional events included in the Para programme for next year’s Commonwealth Games, the 21-year-old wheelchair athlete simply decided she would enter the ones that were there. For someone who has excelled as a track sprinter in recent years that has meant completely overhauling her training programme in preparation for competing in her first marathon. It’s like Usain Bolt becoming a long-distance runner almost overnight.

Kinghorn does not seem fazed by the temporary switch in focus. She will take on the 13 miles of the Great North Run in Newcastle today and then double up for the Chicago Marathon next month. It will undoubtedly be a demanding test of her physical capabilities but it is the mental side of things that she is most curious about.

“I just hope I can get distracted for long periods of time,” said Kinghorn, one of the Sunday Herald’s Six to Follow. “I’ve no idea what I’ll be thinking about all the way around.

“Training has changed massively. Every session takes a lot longer. I was doing a lot of miles anyway but it’s just doing a lot longer things on the track instead of maybe 12 lots of 150m. And going out on the road and pushing for 15 or 16 miles. It’s more psychological, just keeping going for that long. Normally in my events I’m halfway finished by the time I’ve looked up!

“I thought I should at least see if I can do a half-marathon before I do a full one. I’m actually quite nervous. My coach has said it doesn’t matter if I don’t qualify as hopefully I’ll be going to Gold Coast for 1500m anyway. But I don’t like not being able to do things well.

“So I’ll go out there [today] and give it a good shot. I’ve heard positive things about the crowd and it being a good course. And I like the variety of road racing although I’ve not yet got the confidence of some of the more experienced athletes.

“And then next month it’s my first marathon. I’m going to Illinois for a week first to train with some of the Americans and then drive down to Chicago. It’s not something I’ve always felt, ‘oh, one day I really need to do a marathon’ and now I’m just thinking 26 miles seems a long way.

“But it’s a chance for me to give it a shot and see what I can do. The big aim is still to get to Tokyo in 2020 [for the Paralympics] and that doesn’t change. This is just a year where I can try something different on the road.”

Little wonder she is feeling adventurous given the “breakthrough year” she has enjoyed, the highlight of which was undoubtedly her achievements at the world para championships in London where she surpassed all expectations by claiming double gold over 100m and 200m, added a bronze over 400m and claimed a world record over 200m, too.

“I had a couple of weeks off training to think about it and it’s just nuts what happened,” she reflected. “I still can’t believe it all. I went in hoping I could win gold in the 200m and that was it really. I thought if I did that then maybe I could sneak a medal in the 100m, maybe bronze or silver. But the 400m….I didn’t expect that all.

“It’s definitely been a big breakthrough year. After going to Rio [last year] and seeing the girls I race with achieve incredible things I thought, ‘I want that’. I wanted it more than anything. I knew I had to work on my starts and I also got a new chair over the winter. And I trained harder than ever. So in my first race of the season in Arizona to come out and break a world record in the 200m was completely unbelievable.

“That kind of thing makes all the cold nights and early mornings worthwhile. There were days when I was so sore that I literally couldn’t move anything as all my muscles were in agony. I always told myself when I was feeling a little down or had a bad session that when I was on the start line I would be glad I pushed myself. I don’t want to ever reach a Paralympic final and think about a session I missed and feel the other girls are up on me before we even start. So you’ve got always to keep that in mind.

“I’m lucky in that I’ve not been doing the sport all that long so I’m not yet bored of it! And there’s still so much I want to achieve. London was such a big deal for me especially after 2012. I remember watching that and telling my dad at the time I would love to win a medal in London one day. That was a dream come true. You need the determination to see it through because sport can be really difficult. But this year everything seemed to fall into place.”

No place was prouder of her achievements than her home village of Gordon in the Scottish Borders. The small community that rallied around her and her family following her life-changing accident seven years ago was there again to welcome her home from London. Kinghorn will never forget that support.

“Going back to Gordon was amazing,” she added. “I was quite emotional. I’m not a crier at all but going home meant a lot to me. They’re the people who helped my mum and dad out when I had my accident and stood by me the whole time throughout it all.

“They’re the people who have supported me for so long and saw what I was trying to achieve. And for them to still be there when I’ve done something like that was a nice moment. The thing I love about Gordon is there’s a real community feel, there are always events on throughout the year. I know everyone. I can always go back [from her new home in Glasgow] and if I stopped at anyone’s door I could go in for a coffee.”

Having raced over 1500m at Glasgow 2014, there is an enthusiasm already to compete in another Commonwealth Games.

“The greatest thing for me is representing your country and it does mean a little bit more pulling on that Scotland jersey. Glasgow was amazing so I can’t wait for the next one.

“One of my friends is coming out to Australia so we’re going to travel for a couple of months afterwards. We’ll go round as much of the country as we can then go to New Zealand for a bit, too. And then I’ll come back and start thinking about the next world championships. It sometimes feels like my life is mapped out already for me but I can’t complain.”