In distance running, the concept of giving it your all is widely preached, but rarely practised. In truth, most athletes can count on one hand the number of times they've truly maxed out, entering a world of hurt so dark and depressing it can only be endured on special occasions.
Days when you don't just want to run well, but need to, when you do it for your team-mates, out there suffering with you; for fans who dropped a week's wages to travel in support; for the parents who gave you a start in the game and who'll be right there with you, win or lose, at the finish.
Aoibhe Richardson and her mother Niamh (née Murphy) have both run for Ireland on multiple occasions, so at the European Cross Country in Lisbon last December, both knew it was a day where only one of those supramaximal efforts would suffice.
Niamh had twice raced the World Cross Country in the early '90s and she was in Lisbon as an Irish team manager. Aoibhe was running the senior women's race for the first time and the 23-year-old started with the handbrake on, running just inside the top-40 before slicing her way through the field. On the final lap she passed team-mate Ciara Mageean en route to finishing 17th. With Fionnuala McCormack fourth and Mageean 20th, it was a key result that helped secure silver for the Irish.
"I can think of a couple of races in my life where I've really gone to the well and that's definitely one of them," says Aoibhe. "You don't get to run for your country very often and when people are shouting at you, saying you're in contention for a medal, you can get something extra out of yourself. The whole experience was a bit surreal. I didn't really know where that (performance) came from."
Her mother's chief role was as manager of the U-23 women's team, which also won silver, but seeing Aoibhe make a European podium elevated it to a different plane. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," says Niamh. "Everything was just beautiful."
At this point of the story, it'd be easy to assume Aoibhe's ability is the product of pushy parenting - her father Noel was also an Irish international - but the opposite is true. Growing up, Aoibhe played soccer, hockey and tennis alongside athletics. "I wasn't particularly good at any," she says.
Noel and Niamh have four daughters: Aoibhe, Grace and Ella are runners, while Maebh plays soccer. While they were all led to Kilkenny City Harriers (KCH) from an early age, they were never forced to drink in the sport. "It always had to come from them," says Niamh. "That's our philosophy." At KCH they coach 30 athletes ages from 14 to 23 and the longer they do it, they more they realise the futility of focusing on teenage prodigies.
"What is talent?" asks Niamh. "We put an awful lot of emphasis on the top three at U-16, U-17, but the mental side is just as important and (finding) kids that love it. Our philosophy is to give the kid who's down the pack as much time and belief as the winner."
Aoibhe is proof senior success is not the preserve of teenage stars. In school she didn't attract attention from US colleges and it was only in December 2015, when she was studying at UL, that they took notice. She finished 61st in the U-20 race at the European Cross Country and the following year she set off to the University of Portland, the first Irish athlete to enrol there.
While some perceive the US system as a meat grinder that ruins top talent, the reality is it offers resources, medical back-up, racing opportunities and a team environment that's incomparable to anything at home.
As for the myth of burnout, peddled with such confidence by many who've never even experienced the NCAA, Richardson never felt it. "People think we are over-trained and over-raced, but that wasn't my experience at all."
In school she trained three or four times a week so her coach at Portland, Ian Solof, took a cautious approach. She red-shirted (sat out) her first year while building up mileage and by her final year she was doing 70 miles a week.
In 2018, she finished 57th in the NCAA Cross Country, a race that gathers many of world's best collegiate distance runners, and last year she improved to 19th. After graduating from Portland she enrolled at the University of San Francisco for a master's in public health. When she's not chatting coronavirus in her epidemiology classes, Richardson is out running on gloriously soft trails in Golden Gate Park. "I love the city so much," she says. "The running spots are amazing."
Last month she smashed her 5,000m PB when running 15:52.54 in Seattle, which qualified her for next week's NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque - her first on the track.
Earlier this week her parents booked their flights to be there in support, though this weekend they first have domestic duties to fulfil. Niamh will be at the Irish Universities Cross Country in Cork to watch daughters Grace and Ella, while Noel will be in Santry to watch other athletes they coach at the Irish Schools Cross Country.
At a time when the 20x20 campaign is trying to change the perception and participation levels of women's sport, few do more for the cause than Niamh, who mentors other coaches and is involved in Sport Ireland's Women in Coaching programme.
How to get more girls into sport? For Niamh, it's about role models. After Lisbon she saw the effect when Aoibhe visited her old schools in Kilkenny and how young girls were star-struck. "They realised, 'That could be me in a few years,'" says Niamh.
Aoibhe thinks back to her teenage years, how she stayed in sport as so many of her peers dropped away, and she sees one big reason: the Leaving Cert.
"There's so much (academic) pressure. Over here when I talk to people about their experience in high school it seems to be a lot less pressure on teenagers. Maybe they should do away with the Leaving Cert," she says, only half-joking.
At 23, she's been in sport for 15 years and Aoibhe can't see that changing. Looking to the summer, she hopes to make her first NCAA Outdoor Championships in June and while the Olympics will be a stretch - for now - the Europeans in August look within reach.
For an athlete who didn't set the world alight as a junior, she's proof that with the right guidance - both at home and abroad - great things are possible.
That green singlet will be pulled on many times in the years ahead and Aoibhe will go deep in that well time and again - not because she has to, but because she wants to.