A GENETIC condition forced Candice Heys to call time on her running career two years ago.

But instead of taking early retirement from competition in a sport she loved, when a suspected injury turned out to be something more serious, she searched for an alternative.

Heys' problems began in 2010, and she was eventually diagnosed with a genetic knee problem which has left her with chunks of cartilage missing from the backs of both her left and right kneecaps, as well as a spinal condition which affects her lower vertebrae, both of which make it painful to run long distances.

But rather than hang up her running trainers, Heys took a new direction involving three sports rather than one.

Now, after earning second place in the English fell running championships in 2007, going on to represent Great Britain mountain team in the European Championships in 2008, and a county running campaign that has spanned more than a decade, the 39-year-old has taken up triathlon. And she has been an instant hit - so much so, she is preparing for her debut in the world triathlon age group championships (35-39) in Rotterdam this month, after earning silver in her first European championships in Kitzbuhel, Austria, in June.

Despite a podium place in the standard distance event Austria, and being 15 seconds away from earning a bronze medal in her follow-up European sprint event in Dusseldorf, Heys has no idea what to expect on the world stage.

She has target a top-six finish out of the 16 GB women competing in the standard distance in the World Championships in Rotterdam on September 17, but is otherwise just happy to take the rest literally in her stride.

"I was fell running and because of my knees and my back there was no way I was going to be able to continue to compete at the level I used to, so I started cycling and swimming, and running when I could," Heys explained.

"I didn't really know I was going to do, but triathlon became a natural progression if I wanted to keep competing.

"I didn't know what level I would be able to get to so I was surprised to get silver in Kitzbuhel.

"I think a lot of it was because the course was suited to me. It was a hilly bike course and quite a hilly run.

"I couldn't have done any better in Dusseldorf. My biking is the one that lets me down and I was two minutes and 15 seconds behind when I got off.

"By the time I crossed the finish line in the run I was 15 seconds behind, so I'd made up two minutes.

"It's only a 5km run so if it had been longer I might have made up more time, but it's hard to say.

"I've no idea what to hope for in Rotterdam. I'm used to coming in the top five in my age group, but this is the worlds! It could be very different competing against Americans and Australians. I'm interested to find out where I'll finish."

Heys admits she is driven more by challenging herself than competing against others.

"I didn't start racing until I was 24. I didn't like the thought of beating people. But then I realised it's about pushing yourself rather than beating others," she said, crediting the support of husband Steve, daughter Taylor, trainer Tanja Slater and physio Denise Park.

"I drink, eat cake and don't take it all too seriously.

"I've learnt life can be full of let-downs and knock-downs in sport so you've got to celebrate when the going's good and smile through the rain when it's not going to so, and always focus on what you can do, not what you can't."