Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman says a part of her died when she gave up running two and a half years ago.
Freeman, who retired from athletics three years after winning the 400 metres final at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, says it took a long time to get over running.
“When I quit running, a part of me died and I grieved for a long time,” the 34-year-old told a women’s magazine.
“It was the one sure thing in my life. No matter what else happened, running was always there, was always real.”
Despite three tough years on and off the track after her Olympic success, including relationship break-ups and indifferent form, the 1998 Australian of the Year says she found it hard to define her life without running.
“I felt like I was lost in one of those blow-up castles that you see at kids birthday parties and somewhere out of a sight a giant was shaking the foundations so I could never find my balance,” Freeman said.
"I had no idea where I belonged or even who I was anymore.
“I knew myself as one thing - a champion. I had no other identity. I had to reinvent myself or I’d be lost.”
Freeman is currently filming a second series of the SBS documentary Going Bush, in which she and actor Deborah Mailman travel to remote parts of Australia to learn about their aboriginal heritage.
The Olympic champion announced her engagement to Melbourne funds Manager James Murch last October, but they are not expected to marry before the end of this year.
Freeman spoke to the magazine during a trip to regional Australia to film a second series of the SBS documentary Going Bush.