RUNNING CALMS ROCKET RONNIE'S DEMONS
Ronnie O'Sullivan, once snooker's most troubled star, has swopped the Priory for a pair of running shoes to beat the mood swings that threatened his brilliant career.
Twice former world champion O'Sullivan trains daily and the world No 3, who was 31 on Tuesday, has posted such promising times for the 10k, he aims to set a 'celebrity' record in the Great North Run.
O'Sullivan said: "I've had enough of spending £100 an hour on therapy sessions - I thought I might as well get a pair of trainers. It's the best therapy I've ever had. I wish somebody had told me that 12 years ago."
Depression has been O'Sullivan's great enemy since his first ranking title win at 17 - he threatened to quit snooker several times and even gave away his cue after his world semi-final defeat at the Crucible in April.
In the past he has tried fishing, yoga and even flirted with Islam in his search for a settled heart and mind.
But he said: "Running is the most important thing I do - it stops me losing the plot, if you like. Even if I do lose the plot, once I go out on a run and do seven or eight miles, it makes things seem a bit rosier."
On Wednesday, O'Sullivan opens his challenge in York for the Maplin UK Championship, the first title he won in 1993 at 17 to launch a career that has confirmed him as the most naturally-gifted player to pick up a cue.
But he said: "If someone said I'd got a choice between running and snooker, I'd give up snooker tomorrow, I get such a buzz from running. I love it - the mud, the fresh air. I know Epping Forest inside out.
"I've played snooker for a long time, it's become a bit of a job. I enjoy it, but it's not the be all and end all. The most important thing for me is my family. I've a daughter Lily and we have another on the way.
"My missus, Jo, is happy for me if I'm happy, and I'm an outdoors person. I'm not one to sit and try to rock Lily to sleep in the house. I take her out in the pram or carry her on my chest. She means the world to me."
O'Sullivan, who has joined Woodford Green in Essex, added: "I've done 36 mins 31sec for the 10k but I want to get my time down to 33 and do the Great North Run, be the fastest celebrity they've ever had, which I WILL do. Whatever the time is, that will be my goal. I'll find out what the time is and train hard."
He has been training alongside national junior cross-country champion Danielle Sale, whose coach, former international Maxine Joyce, has set O'Sullivan a tough schedule.
"He's keen and he can get down to 35 mins, faster if he can fit in the training," said Joyce. "He says it helps his snooker. You don't need to be fit to play snooker, but it makes the mind fitter."
O'Sullivan, looking lean and relaxed, swept aside Jimmy White 7-0 to win the Betfred Premier League final on Sunday, and declared: "I'm going to York with a bit of confidence. I'd love to win it again.
"There's always room for improvement, and I've learnt to start enjoying my snooker again. But I don't take this game too seriously, there are more important things like family. My life is about my kids now."