Reports of Kate McIlroy's athletics death have been greatly exaggerated.
In fact, after making the gut-wrenching decision to pull the pin on her Olympic qualification campaign last month, the 26-year-old Wellingtonian has emerged from the gloom and hopes to race for another decade.
When fit, the classy but injury-prone McIlroy could cruise through qualification times on to the Beijing 3000m steeplechase start-line, but a niggling Achilles problem meant she felt she couldn't do herself, or her country justice.
"Most people seem to think that I'm giving up running now that I'm not going to the Olympics," McIlroy said. "I think they just sort of assume that because I've pulled out of the Olympics that I'm not going to run again.
"Lots of random people have been saying, `Oh, you must be so disappointed at not going and what are you going to do now?'
"Are you going to get on with your life and get a job?"
McIlroy was able to chuckle about it yesterday but the 2005 world mountain running champion admitted premature retirement had entered her thoughts.
"You definitely have your moments but there's still part of me that feels that my best years are still to come," she said. "I'm only 26 and I've probably got another good 10 years in me.
"The next big goal will be the Commonwealth Games and then the main aim will be London [Olympics] 2012."
McIlroy, who will race the Harbour Capital half-marathon for the first time on Sunday, will have to grit her teeth while watching the Olympics on television.
"It will hard watching my event going, `Ah, I should be there'. But that's life, you just have to deal with it."
New Zealand's 2006 sportswoman of the year, McIlroy headlines a strong women's half-marathon field - including Melissa Moon, defending champion Gabrielle O'Rourke and Vicki Humphries - but she is playing down her chances.
"I'm not out there to win it or do any flash time because I haven't really run much at all since mid May, so I just want to enjoy it, to be honest."
Despite being well underdone, McIlroy is looking forward to the challenge of lining up against Moon, 37, in their first competitive match-up since the young gun shocked the race favourite at 2005's world mountain running championships.
"I always liked racing against her. She always gives it her best shot.
"I just need to get amongst it, get some consistency back and hopefully I'll start flying again."
Organisers expect close to 4000 entrants across the various grades, with competitors travelling from Australia, Canada, United States, Britain, Hong Kong, Mexico, Chile and Germany.
Dorne Cup winner Glenn Hughes is the favourite in the men's half-marathon, Grant McLean is gunning for a fourth consecutive men's marathon title, while Tania Smellie will defend the women's marathon title.
START TIMES Harbour Capital marathon: Sunday: 6.30am: marathon walk. 7.30am: marathon run. 9am: half-marathon run and walk. 9.15am: 10km run and walk. All races start and finish at Westpac Stadium -
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