Jessica Ennis-Hill concedes that the cheeky exploits of Peppa Pig don’t quite compare to the lure of competition. Much as the London Olympic heptathlon gold medallist loves her new role as a parent – complete with the hours of watching Peppa flummox her intellectually challenged father on television – she misses the buzz of stepping on to the track.
“I have missed the adrenalin of competing,” said Ennis-Hill, 29, as she approaches her 100-metre hurdle race next week, her first foray on to the track since having Reggie last July.
“Getting into the blocks and feeling that nervous energy and excitement. I enjoy every minute of it.”
And when it was put to her that perhaps children’s television might provide a worthy substitute, she said: “Ha! Peppa Pig? No, to have Reggie here and to compete is a double bonus. I am excited that I will have that adrenalin of competing in this stage, a new chapter in my life.”
Ennis-Hill’s first competition will be next Saturday on a specially built track in the centre of Manchester. Reggie will be trackside, along with her husband, Andy. But apart from the excitement of competing in front of her son for the first time, she is also apprehensive, especially as she will be up against a high-quality field including fellow Briton Tiffany Porter – the European champion – and Brianna Rollins, the current world champion from the US.
“It will be nice to see Reggie there,” she said. “[But] I am very nervous about it, I haven’t stepped into this for a long, long time. It is a big challenge. I have had a long break and it is a new part of my life. There won’t be extra pressure having Reggie there because I would like to think he would be happy with anything I do.”
Ennis-Hill admits she is heading into “no man’s land” with regards to her competitiveness, having been out for so long. An Achilles problem has hampered her return and she is refusing to put any pressure on herself over what happens in her early-season performances.
“I am not quite sure what time I can produce. But I want to enjoy it and feel the excitement of competition. It is so different than in previous years. For London, I was at the peak of my career. It is hard to make a decent comparison. I can look at the data but until I compete I won’t really know where I am.
“It’s the beginning of the season and I have done some training, so it is the right time to get back into competing. This year is a progression for next year.”
In her absence, Katarina Johnson-Thompson has stepped into the limelight, breaking Ennis-Hill’s indoor pentathlon record and earning a gold medal at the European Championships in March.
Johnson-Thompson will also compete in Manchester next week, in the 200m hurdles – but she and Ennis-Hill will come up against each other at the Hypo Meeting in Götzis later this month, as well as at the World Championships in August. But Ennis-Hill is not concerned about her rival, as she feels her way back into competition.
“It is great that the sport has moved on and it is great to see a British athlete doing so well,” she said. “I have to concentrate on my own performance – it is a new journey for me, a completely different journey.”
And as for retiring at the top post-London 2012, then basking in the glory with her new family… there was never any chance of that. The pull of adrenalin is too strong. And there is the matter of defending her Olympic title in Rio next year.
“London was incredible and it is going to take a lot to top that,” she said. “But I never felt that I wanted to end my career there, I always thought I had another two or three years in me. I have had these times where I have thought, ‘What am I doing, am I crazy?’ But I want to have one more shot.”