Michelle Finn had placed all her eggs in the 2020 basket.
She packed in the teaching, dipped into the savings stash, and boarded a New Year’s Eve flight to Melbourne to begin a three-month training stint in the company of World and Olympic track finalists.
It was all with a view to peeking in Tokyo.
The 2020 Games, you see, were to be her last big hurrah at international level.
And it was all going to plan. Training with the Melbourne Track Club and the lifestyle of eat, sleep, run repeat quickly lent itself to a three-second improvement in her lifetime best in the 3,000m steeplechase.
That 9.38.04 time was churned out on February 22 and there’s a strong chance she would have gone quicker again at the Australian National Championships in late March.
By that stage, though, she was back home in Castlemagner in North Cork. Self-isolating at home in Castlemagner, even, such was the recommended health advice for those having flown in from overseas.
Covid-19, as with nearly every other athlete, has thrown her Olympic-year plans into a tailspin.
“I don't think I could possibly have imagined for 2020 to go like this,” says Finn.
“Athletics is such a hard sport. Unless you are winning medals internationally, making Olympic, World or European teams doesn't cut it as a job.
“I was putting absolutely everything I had into this year, putting everything into qualifying for the Olympics and then doing as well as I possibly could at the Olympics. I had made a lot of changes, left my job. I had basically saved enough to sustain me as far as the Olympics.
“Now that it is put off for another year, it is hard to figure out how to make it last because in my own head I’m thinking, do I go back to work because I need to, but also, I have put so much in this year, do I waste what I have done this year by going backward next year when that is now Olympic year. It is tricky enough.
“I might not have necessarily retired after Tokyo, but I definitely would have stepped back, gone back to work, got a life. I put so much into this year already and I feel the benefits so much that an extra year for me athletics-wise, I'll actually be fitter and more ready for Tokyo next year, even though it is the exact opposite of what I had wanted.”
If all that sounds like a lot to get one’s head around, it’s because it is, or at least was.
“I found it really hard at the start because everything seems more extreme. Not that I make much money from running, but it kinda felt like losing a job and everything you've worked for for the last four years,” admits the 30-year old, “but now that we have been in it a while, mentally, I am coping well.”
Despite having no track, training partners, or hurdles within her 5km limit, and only a swiss ball and band for gym equipment, she refuses to bemoan her rather scant set-up. With normal life as we know it having been turned on its head, it would be “trivial” to complain about the undulating hills around North Cork.
The special dispensation to be afforded to high-performance athletes from Monday onward will be a game-changer for the 2016 European finalist.
Her initial plan was to make use of a 200m track in nearby Clondrohid, but the freedom to travel outside her 20km limit will likely see Finn relocate to Dublin.
“I would consider moving to Dublin for a month or two to train in Santry, I’d have training partners there.
“I am lucky in that I can run from my door. I don't need to get onto the water to row or I don't need a swimming pool to reopen. Yes, I can't do the very specific stuff, but I can stay fit without access to a track or gym.
“What is a small bit frustrating is I know I am fitter than I have ever been right now. I am just hoping we will have some domestic races later this year and I will be able to run faster times.
"I would love to break nine minutes for 3km flat.”