At 25, Irish athlete Laura Crowe found herself at a crossroads, she had a degree and a master's from UCC under her belt, a decent athletics career and was happy in her job at Novartis pharmaceuticals in Cork.
However, deep down Crowe wanted more from athletics, dreams she wanted to fulfil. "I was always there or thereabouts running 2.05s. I was tipping away at the 800s, doing my best at it but it was hard," says Crowe. "When I went away for races I was up against people who were doing it full time, they had time to rest and recover but I was juggling everything."
So, last January, after much deliberation, she decided to put her job on hold and concentrate on athletics full-time. Boyfriend Mark Hanrahan also took a leave of absence from his job at John Buckley sports. "We were both at the same level in terms of athletics, so we decided to go for it. We'd been talking about it for a while before we made the move. We spoke to our employers and they were accommodating.
"Novartis pharmaceuticals are helping me out with sponsorship and so are my club; we have some savings from the last few years too. It's making a big difference already. I'm able to train twice a day now, rest, go the gym, all the things I wasn't able to do before."
Crowe is only a few months into her new regime and already the changes she's made have paid dividends. On Thursday night she competed in the 800m at the prestigious Bislett Games in Oslo, running a personal best of 2.02.69.
"If I didn't take that leap back in January, Thursday night might never have happened. Sonia O'Sullivan and Nick Bideau have been very good to me, they helped me get into the race in Oslo. It was really amazing to be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Usain Bolt in the warm-up area. I threw myself into the deep end, but I'm glad I did."
It was a massive step-up for Crowe whose previous best time of 2.04.30 was only set last month in Letterkenny. Her coach is former Olympian Donie Walsh. "Everything revolves around Donie, he's a great coach," she says.
Crowe's performances have been steadily improving as the season has progressed; just last month she won the 1,500m at the British Milers Club meeting in Manchester in a time of 4:12.25, improving on her 4:16.48 PB she set in Athlone in February.
Next weekend she will compete in the 3,000 metres at the European Team Championships in Santry. However the 1500 metres is Crowe's preferred distance, she feels that if she gets stronger over that distance then her 800 metre time will come.
Crowe is not sure yet how long she will stay out of work for but if she keeps improving at the same rate anything is possible.