Martin Dent was barely a teenager growing up on the NSW Central Coast in 1993 when Sydney was awarded the 2000 Olympic Games.
It ignited a dream to one day be part of the biggest show on earth.
Four years later, by the time he turned 18 years in 1997, he was off to Canberra to train under the guidance of legendary coach Dick Telford.
As a steeplechaser, he was very much in the mix to compete at the Sydney Olympics, running a qualifying time, but he finished fourth in the trials and missed selection.
It was one of several disappointments that he has faced as an athlete across the years. He battled injury, form and selection issues.
He questioned whether he would ever achieve his goal after missing selection for the 2008 Olympics in the steeplechase, despite again recording a qualifying time. Martin recalls the time with clarity: “That was devastating. I was running well; I thought it was unfair. I didn’t run another steeplechase after that.”
On the opening weekend of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Martin went on to win the City to Surf race in Sydney, becoming the first Australian in nine years to do so.
By 2009, Martin had turned his focus entirely to marathon running. He has run marathons since 2002, with his debut in Fukuoka, Japan resulting in Martin collapsing onto a stretcher at the finish line. He was better prepared by 2009, earning selection for the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games the following year.
The 2012 London Olympics appeared to be within reach but the path still had its challenges, including suffering a stress fracture in his back before running a qualifier in December 2011.
What followed was the uncertainty, which was natural enough given his non-selection in 2008.
“I had been hearing things, including that I might not get selected. It was an anxious time. I was 33 years of age and I wasn’t sure if I would have another opportunity. Four years is a long time.”
As things unfolded, he need not have worried.
“I was on a lunchtime run around Lake Burley Griffin when I received the call telling me that I had been selected.”
His life went into overdrive from that moment on. Martin was keen to take in as much of the Olympic experience as possible.
And he was taking nothing for granted.
“We didn’t compete until the final Sunday of the Games so I walked in the Opening Ceremony.”
Then with wife Kathie and his three boys, including two-year-old twins lining the course, along with his three siblings and his mum and dad, he ran his heart out to finish in 28th place.
“The London Olympics was an amazing experience.”
By 2014 he had retired from competitive running to focus on work and family.
Martin works at the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. He runs every day, clocking around 60 kilometres a week in a bid to keep fit along with competing in orienteering.
“I do orienteering at the moment because it requires fast running while navigating. It’s a great challenge.”
Martin went to the Orienteering World Cup two years ago and is currently ranked in the top 10 in Australia.
And, of course, there is the energy required to keep up with his four children – three boys and a daughter.
At 42 years of age, he concedes he is slowing down but is buoyed by the memories of competing at the Olympics.
His story shows the significance of the Olympics in his life and the determination required to compete at the highest level.