By the time he stands on the start line of the 10km race held in conjunction with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Madrid Maraton on 27 April, it will have been 439 days since Spain’s reigning European U23 champion Carlos Mayo last competed.
There was little obvious in the results of the 2018 Caceres Cross Country meeting that Mayo was about to have such a long hiatus from competitive action after he had finished a very respectable second behind Turkey’s former European cross country and 10,000m champion Polat Kemboi Arikan.
But to those watching him finish, it was obvious something was wrong as a fierce grimace was etched across his face.
“It was an intense pain (from a knee injury),” recalled Mayo, speaking to several Spanish athletics publications earlier this week once his return to racing became confirmed.
Mayo, who is still only 23, revealed soon after his run in Caceres that he had been suffering with problems in his right knee for more almost three months. He had been able to train, pushing through the pain barrier on many occasions, but the problem had restricted his volume and was soon to curtail his competitions.
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After his Caceres outing, Mayo took stock of the situation. He tried a variety injections and continued training in a vain bid to get fit enough to make a serious attempt to qualify for the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships, but it soon became clear that was not a trip he was going to make.
After watching, from in front of a television screen, his training partners Antonio Abadía and Juan 'Chiki' Pérez compete over 5000m in the German capital he decided to submit to the surgeon’s knife and the recalcitrant joint was operated upon on 28 August last year.
Fortunately for Mayo, luck finally shined on him. His recovery and rehabilitation during the final four months of 2018 were reasonably swift.
“I've now been training without problems for two-and-a-half months and it's a marvel. I had forgotten that I enjoyed this and that's what I want to do now when I compete again,” he reflected. "I want to see how I respond in competition (on 27 April) because there have been many months out. After that we will plan the rest of the season."
"I do not want to look beyond the first competition. I want to recover the sensation (of competitive running), be 100% and we'll see. it's true that I hope I can do a qualifying time for the World Championships, so a long season benefits me as I still have to make progress, but little by little."
One competition that could well feature on his racing programme and had some in the local athletics fraternity speculating positively about the three-time SPAR European Cross Country Championships medallist’s return to wearing a Spanish vest is the European 10,000m Cup in London on 6 July.
Mayo finished third at the 2017 edition of the European 10,000m Cup in Minsk, where he ran his personal best of 28:48.81 in hot and humid conditions. He has admitted he would relish a chance to improve on that time and has fond memories of his time in the Belarusian capital as it was a prelude to finally taking a European title when he won over 25 laps of the track on his farewell to the U23 ranks in Bydgoszcz later that summer.
With Spain going to London as the two-time defending men’s team champions, Mayo could be a more-than-useful addition to their squad as they bid to become only the second team to win three consecutive men’s team gold medals in the 22-year history of the competition, following on from their compatriots who acquired a hat-trick of titles from 1999-2001.