Tom Farrell believes the toughest period of his career so far has helped him to realise what racing means to him.

Farrell, from Scotby, missed the majority of the 2017 athletics season due to what he described as “underlying medical issues” before he featured in four races in the United States last year.

But the 27-year-old thinks he knows what the issue has been that stopped him from racing at full-tilt and he is looking forward to getting back on the track this season.

“It’s been, by far, the toughest time of my career to date. But I think it’s been quite good, it puts things into perspective a lot,” the middle-distance runner said.

“If there was ever a good time for it to come, it’s come at the right time. I’ve missed some major championships, obviously. I’ve missed London 2017 which was a home World Championships which probably won’t come around again. 

“But, at the same time, there are some big championships coming up. I still have 18 months before the Olympics which is the big one.

"Nobody ever wants it, and it’s come at a bad time in that regard, but it’s put into perspective what my career means to me. 

“When something is taken away from you, you learn to respect it more, you realise what it means to you. It’s put that spin on it in how much it really means.

"People’s careers, in the grand scheme of a lifetime, they are extremely short. The average death age at the moment is about 80 or 85. If you get eight years out of a career, you have done pretty well and that’s only 10 per cent of your life.

“Even though it [racing] can feel like life and death for me, it’s helped put that into perspective in that regard.”

Farrell, who is contracted with Nike until 2020, recently returned to his home city of Carlisle to catch up with family but is now starting to prepare to head to Arizona for a five-week altitude training block. 

The former Austin Friars School student, who competed at the Rio 2016 Olympics, has been helping his coach Mark Rowland but insists he is still very keen to get back top-level racing.

“It’s something that me and my coach have always talked about,” he said. “I’m helping him on an admin level, but every time we sit down, he says ‘Look, I know you are helping me, but your running is still our priority’.

“I’ve got a really good support system around me. I’m away from the governing body [British Athletics] because they dropped me off funding a couple of years ago. With my family, coach and support systems that I have over in America, I’m in a really good place.

“I want to get back, not too necessarily prove people wrong, because I don’t think there are people out there, doubting me. But I want to get back to that level because I know I can, or certainly give it a hell of a good shot, I’m not the sort of person to give up.

“There is a World Championships this year. Who knows – it [Tom earning selection] might happen, it might not happen, but I don’t want to put any limitations out there. I think what’s most important this year is just getting back to racing, knowing that everything is in good stead, and we can roll forward into an Olympic year.”

Farrell, who also missed out on the London 2012 Olympics through injury, added: “If everything went well this year, and maybe we might exceed the expectations for me, [I could feature at the World Championships].

"But as long as I get back to racing, we’ve succeeded, it hasn’t been a failure, regardless of the level of racing that is. 

“If I can end the season with some good races under my belt, whether that’s really high quality or just average quality, knowing that I can take a little bit of a break and I can go really strong into next year, that'll be great. 

“The focus is very much on the Olympic year because that’s the biggest of the four years for us as athletes.”