According to Neil Black, the British Athletics performance director, Christine Ohuruogu has made her best ever start to a summer track season because she has found a joyous spring in her step. "She just seems to be happy in her life and that happiness and contentment is coming across very strongly," Black ventured, on a visit to Tyneside ahead of the European Team Championships at Gateshead on 22 and 23 June.
The assessment was noted with a fit of the giggles by Ohuruogu. "That is funny," the former world and Olympic 400 metre champion said, after regaining her composure. "So I was miserable before, then?"
Not so much full of misery, exactly, as wound up by the pressures of preparing for what was, for the Stratford woman, a backyard Olympic Games. It started the minute the East Ender struck Commonwealth gold in Melbourne in 2006. The first question put to her in the MCG was about carrying the home hopes as a local girl towards London 2012. It was a question she could not run away from for six years, through the highs of World Championship and Olympic golds in 2007 and 2008 and the lows of three injury-plagued years that followed.
Having emerged from 2012 with a home Olympic 400m silver, Ohuruogu has started 2013 like a woman with a burden lifted. A notoriously slow starter, she has opened her season with clockings of 50.58sec for second place at the Jamaica Invitational and 50.53sec for third spot at the opening Diamond League meeting in Doha.
"I think for a lot of British athletes, 2012 was the hardest thing we'll ever go through," the linguistics graduate reflected. "It always hovered like this cloud and you were never quite sure how you were going to come out of the end of it. You could imagine – maybe I'll do all right, maybe I won't – but until it had gone you could not actually breathe and say, 'Oh, the sun still rises; life still goes on.' I think, for a lot of athletes, no matter how they did, it's nice to come out of the other end and say, 'Yeah, there is life after 2012.' It is a relief, almost."
Ohuruogu turns 29 on Friday. For all that she has accomplished in life, on and off the track, there are new chapters yet to be written. Amid all the fuss about the home Games, it passed without much notice that she became an author in 2012. She had two children's books published – Camp Gold: Running Stars and Camp Gold: Going for Gold. They tell the tale of Maxine, a schoolgirl who suddenly discovers a talent for running and sets out on a path towards Olympic gold.
"Yeah, I do have two books out there," Ohuruogu said. "I couldn't really do much to publicise them in the run-up to the Games because the focus was just so intense. Then, after the Games, I didn't want people to go out and buy them just because my name was on them and I'd won silver. I wanted people to buy them because they really wanted their kids to read them. I didn't want to use it as a gimmick just to drum up publicity.
"I really enjoyed writing them. I wanted to focus on getting young girls doing sport. I got in a bit about how I grew up and put a bit of adventure in. Writing for children is really hard but it's really rewarding. I'd love to do it again in the future."
The immediate future for the J K Rowling of the track is a Diamond League date in New York on 25 May, followed by the European Team Championships on Tyneside next month. Britain has twice won the European Cup at Gateshead, but that was when it was split into a men's and women's competition, the male squad triumphing in 1989 and 2000. Since the merger in 2009, there has been no sniff of a GB success but hopes are high of the combined class of 2013 mounting a strong challenge to the favoured Russians in front of what promises to be sell-out home crowd.
A winning contribution by Ohuruogu would be a step in the right direction. Only two British women have ever won the 400m in the European Cup or European Team Championships: Lillian Board in 1967 and Mel Neef in 1995.