It will be still dark when Ann Marie McGlynn arrives at Dublin airport tomorrow morning to join the Irish women's team on the way to Belgrade in Serbia – the venue for Sunday's European Cross-Country Championships.
Ann Marie will be travelling with a deep sense of gratitude too for getting to wear her first Irish senior international singlet at 33 – an achievement that seemed beyond her wildest dreams a little more than a year ago when she made her first strides back to the sport where she had once excelled up to U-23 level.
Back in the early days of her athletic career, when she competed as Ann Marie Larkin, the Tullamore woman was known for her feisty and fearless approach to competition. She was introduced to athletics as a 10-year-old and excelled at cross-country and track running – winning national juvenile and junior titles, as well as leading the way home in the girls' intermediate race at the schools international in Dungarvan in 1995.
There were junior and U-23 international experiences too and an athletics scholarship to UCD in 1998 where Ann Marie was coached by Noel Carroll, before his sudden death in the October of that year, but she never quite made the transition from U-23 to senior level.
Then she met Trevor McGlynn, who holds the national junior 60m indoor hurdles record, and the couple married in 2007 and moved to Trevor's home town of Strabane, Co Tyrone. Their first child, Lexie, was born in 2010.
In February last year, her son Alfie was born, and he became very ill with a virus and a collapsed lung when only three weeks old. During that time, Ann Marie reached again for her runners and took her first tentative strides back to athletics.
She remembers how hard it felt trying to get back. She had put on some extra pounds too, but she persevered. Progress was slow, but running helped Ann Marie cope with Alfie's illness. "I was stressed and thinking about how terrible it would be if we were to lose our child to this illness," Ann Marie says. "Lacing on the runners again was the only way that I could deal with it."
Ann Marie soon joined the local Lifford AC. She ran her first race in more than six years in July 2012 – finishing a 5k in 19.39, but by September she had lowered that time to 17.13.
She celebrated her return to running in February when, on Alfie's first birthday, she took the silver medal in the 3,000m behind Lizzie Lee at the Woodie's DIY National Indoor Championships in Athlone. "That was an absolutely amazing and wonderful experience to win a national medal on my son's first birthday and see him fully back to good health as well."
Over the summer Ann Marie won half-marathons in her native Tullamore, as well as in Omagh and Derry. She was back in love with running and had great support from Trevor and their families. "It's hard to believe that I am getting this second chance, but I am grabbing it with both hands."
And Ann Marie has developed a special relationship with her new coach Teresa McDaid – the Letterkenny woman who won the Coach of the Year award twice in a row.
"Since joining up with Teresa only last September, my running career has really taken off. When Noel Carroll started to coach me in 1998, it was the first time in years that he had agreed to coach a female athlete. Now, I'm the first female athlete that Teresa has coached."
Ann Marie delivered a stunning late sprint in the Woodie's DIY National Championships in Santry to claw her way back onto the Irish team. It was a flat-out effort that took her clear of Ciara Durkan and Maria McCambridge in the final 100m.
"I was very nervous before the race, but when the chips were down in the closing stages, I found that I still had a bit of speed and spirit left and I went flat out to clinch my place. I don't think I could have achieved this with the help of Teresa who has helped me develop such a great degree of mental positivity.
"Together we have been setting and achieving goals that I never would have imagined to have been possible."