IF there is one hugely positive change within elite sport over recent years, it is the willingness of elite athletes to talk about mental health.

The openness of many elite athletes who have suffered from mental health issues has helped to significantly reduce the stigma that for so long has endured around mental health.

Katie Ford is one such athlete who has talked publicly about the mental health issues she has battled, and specifically she has suffered from depression, but Ford has another challenge that makes her achievements even more remarkable – she has epilepsy.

These issues however, have not stopped the 33-year-old from Glasgow becoming one of the country’s most successful ultra-cyclists ever.

Over the past decade-or-so, Ford has become the first Scot to complete Race Across America, an ultra-distance cycling race that covers approximately 3000 miles while just two years ago, Ford secured the six-hour female indoor track world record. However, she missed out on the 12-hour indoor track female world record, which is something that remains a bugbear and is a record Ford still has her sights on.

The Glaswegian’s achievements are nothing short of incredible and when one considers the challenges she has been forced to overcome in the process, it is impossible to not be impressed.

Her life has been hugely affected by epilepsy – as a teenager, she underwent brain surgery to treat her condition – and this is why she has spent much of her adult life striving to raise money and awareness for epilepsy.

These struggles are why Ford continues to think of different ways she can do more for this cause that is so close to her heart.

“It’s amazing in the past ten years how much the sport of ultra cycling has grown, and also there’s been progress in terms of recognising mental health issues but there hasn’t been the same progress when it comes to awareness of epilepsy,” she said.

“On the mental health side of things, you see a lot of people now using cycling and exercise as a way of helping their mental health. It is a fantastic way of helping with stress and so many things like that.

Ford feels she has learned to manage her depression but her epilepsy continues to affect her day-to-day life. She chooses not to drive in case she has a seizure while at the wheel and the thing that pushes her on to break more records is to show fellow epilepsy sufferers, and children in particular, that it should not be a barrier to achieving your dreams.

“I want people to see that just because you have the condition, doesn’t mean you can’t do these kind of things,” she said.

“I really believe in the saying if you see it, you can be it and while I hope kids are inspired, I take a huge amount of strength from them too. I see how much harder their struggles are even than mine. And so when I’m attempting these records, I want to keep going not just for me, but for them.”

After missing out on the women’s 12-hour indoor track female world record in 2017 by just 8km, Ford admits she has already begun planning her next move. Her next record attempt may not be until 2021 but a feat of such proportions needs considerable lead-up time and so she has started training already.

“I have started preparing but in a very low-level way – I’m doing a lot of pilates, yoga and getting my base-level fitness up and I’m working on my mental health as well,” she said.

“I fell just short last time even with everything that happened and the frustration was that it reflected badly on the idea that people with epilepsy can do this.

“The main thing for me is that if I felt I was riding just for myself, it would be easier to stop. But I’ve always felt I was riding for people with the condition.”

And with the drive of wanting to prove that she can break such a record, as well as the drive of doing it for epilepsy sufferers everywhere, who would bet against her?