"I’m not coming back to be mediocre, I want to be really good.”

Lynsey Sharp has never been one to be happy with merely making up the numbers.

Once, she was one of the best 800m runners in the world, but much has changed in her life over the past few years. A baby boy, Max, born just over a year ago, plus injuries related to the body-transforming process of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, means that in many ways, she is an entirely different person to the one who raced in her last competitive 800m outing, in the World Championships final in 2019.

But in other ways, she is exactly the same. She remains a competitive animal who wants only to set foot on the track if she believes she can compete with the top middle-distance runners in the world.

And she does not want to commit her life to the slog of elite-level training if she does not believe she is on the path towards returning to the top of her sport.

For weeks, months even, after Max was born, Sharp was unable to believe a comeback was feasible.

The early days of motherhood, which was complicated by Max being born six weeks premature, made her previous intention of returning to athletics seem impossible.

“Everything was complicated by how early Max was born and so athletics didn’t even enter my head. We were thrown into this world of neonatal care we didn’t even know existed and so, at that point, I never even thought about exercising never mind coming back,” Sharp says.

“For the first eight, 10 weeks after he was born, it took all my energy to keep him alive. It was so hard and I remember thinking how am I ever going to have time to do anything ever again?

“At that point, I really didn’t think I’d be able to come back to running.”

Slowly but surely, however, Sharp began to dip her toe into exercise again. In the early days, it was purely to maintain some level of sanity and grab half an hour to herself.

With her husband, runner Andy Butchart, in full preparation mode for the World Championships and Commonwealth Games though, the early months of 2022 took her to numerous training camps alongside him, but it was not until a trip to Flagstaff in Arizona last March, when her son was four months old, that the competitive spark reignited.

Team Scotland’s qualification time for last summer’s Commonwealth Games was in her sights but a sacral stress fracture in her back, something that women are particularly susceptible to as they stop breastfeeding, put paid to any competitive appearance in Birmingham.

And that, thought Sharp, was that for her comeback.

“I had said before that stress fracture that I was one injury away from not doing this because I just couldn’t face rehabbing back from an injury,” the 32-year-old recalls. “I found that whole time of being injured harder than coming back from pregnancy.”

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A degree of rehab was required, however, to allow her to return to any kind of normality and with no view to elite athletics being in her life, the bi-weekly trips from her home in Stirling to get physio treatment in Edinburgh became a welcome outing.

As her injury improved, Sharp’s fitness levels began increasing her motivation, and the drive to race crept back in and, with almost no forward planning, she found herself looking at entering some indoor races.

Her first competitive outing was two weeks ago, at a low-key meet at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, which ended with victory in the rarely-contested 600m.

Despite not being a 600m runner, Sharp say she felt nerves on the start line for that opening race of the season unlike anything she had previously experienced, even in the Olympic final.

“I train at the Emirates so I kept telling myself it was no different to usual but it was different and I was definitely more nervous than I’d normally be,” she says. “It was scary because this is all so, so unknown.”

Today, Sharp’s comeback will hit a significant milestone; it will be her first competitive 800m in over three years.

She will line up in Manchester at the World Indoor Tour meet which, Sharp admits, is not exactly easing herself back in.

She is tempering her own expectations but, as is always the case with Sharp, she is not going into this weekend entirely without targets.

“I’m going in at the deep end this weekend but that’s just how my schedule has worked out,” she says.

“I think people who know the sport well know that generally, I don’t race great straight out the blocks so in some respects, I don’t think people are expecting much.

“But what I want, and what I want other people to see, is that it still looks like me. That’s what I was so happy about with that 600m, I still felt like me.

“I’d been worried I wouldn’t. It’s been a long time and a lot has happened and so you really don’t know until you stand on the start line how it’s going to go.”

Always a better outdoor runner than indoor, Sharp’s real target is this summer, with the World Championships the major event in the calendar.

In contrast to her pre-baby life, however, in which every fine detail would be worked out from now until then, Sharp is now thinking only a week or two ahead. Anything else is unworkable, as she has found out.

“I’ve never thought far ahead – I just think right, get through the next week or two,” she says. “That’s something I really struggled with early on – you can’t plan anything when you’ve got a child.

“I used to know exactly what I was doing. I’d be at the track every single day at 9.30am and now, I go at any random time I can make it.

“I remember saying I don’t want to do this anymore because it’s not how it used to be. But I had to slowly adjust to the fact that it’ll never be like it used to be, how could it?

“Now, I wake up every day and gauge what I can do that day depending on what kind of night I’ve had with Max.”

Much is made of the changed perspective being a parent gives an athlete and certainly, Sharp has experienced this shift.

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Having split with her sponsor, Adidas, soon before becoming pregnant and then being dropped from British Athletics funding just a few months ago, Sharp is in the unusual position – for her anyway – of being obliged to answer to no one. And that is, she is finding, refreshing.

“I don’t have anyone to answer to other than myself and I’m literally only doing this for myself and for Max,” she says. “I want to show Max that I’ve made it back and I’ve done that. I can say to him I was an athlete before I had him, and one afterwards – you were there. And so in a lot of respects, this comeback is already a success.”

Being an elite athlete entirely for the love of it is rare and so with Sharp not allowing her thoughts to drift towards GB vests and major championships – yet, anyway – she is basking in the feeling of pure enjoyment, and the potential that could be fulfilled over the coming months.

“I’ve thought about if I will start to put pressure on myself but I’m trying to keep it relaxed because that’s what’s helped me get back on the start line at all – not overthinking anything,” she says. “But I’m not doing all of this to scrape into the final of the British Champs – that’s not fun for me.

“So while I don’t know what the plan is long term, I do know that if I’m spending that time away from Max, I don’t want to be wasting that time.

“There’s a very specific feeling I get that I love. At the Emirates, if you hit the last bend in good shape, there’s no better feeling. I’ve had that feeling recently and that’s what makes me feel I still want to do this.

“The last six weeks, I’ve felt like yeah, I am still me and I love it. If I didn’t have that feeling, I’d not still be doing it.”