London Marathon: Richard Whitehead has no fears about running after Boston horror


After the tragic events of Boston, Richard Whitehead readily admits he had second thoughts about this weekend’s London Marathon.

Not about his own safety but that of his 12-week-old daughter Zarah and fiancée Valerie, who will be cheering him on from the sidelines. But the family have decided to travel down from their Nottingham home, with Whitehead confident the race will pass without a hitch.

“I’ve never had second thoughts about me running but I did initially about my family, with them obviously planning to be near the finishing line,” he says. “What happened in Boston makes you think.

“The global focus on London will now be massive but I’m sure there won’t be any issues at all. It’s a magical event and it makes you realise what’s important in life. What  happened in Boston won’t deter me and I hope it doesn’t deter runners and spectators in London. The power of sport is a powerful tool, and this marathon will be more powerful than ever.”

Whitehead was out on a tapering jog as he cut back his training before hitting the streets of London when news from Boston first broke.

“My fiancée told me when I got back,” he said. “My first reaction was that I had friends running out there, including one of the guys that paced me for one of my marathons. I’m just grateful for social media as, within 10 or 15 minutes, I knew everyone out there I knew at least was safe.”

Whitehead is the first leg amputee in history to run under three hours for a marathon; he holds a world’s best of 2hr 42min 52sec, enough to put him in the top 400 able-bodied athletes at most marathons. This time around the 36-year-old’s ambitions are far less lofty, which he blames on London 2012.

Following the news that his  T42 classification would not be eligible for the marathon at the Paralympics, he instead switched to the 200m. He bulked up from 59kg to 80kg to give him the required power to take on the world’s best sprinters and duly blitzed his way to gold.

Having maintained that weight with a joint plan for track action this season – the IPC World Championships and the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games – even getting near to the three-hour mark tomorrow would be a great achievement.

But Whitehead, who is trained by Paula Radcliffe’s former training partner Liz Yelling, is not unused to exceeding expectations. Despite being a congenital double amputee, he is a former swimmer, gymnast and cricketer and even represented Britain in ice sledge hockey at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

His most ambitious project lies in store this summer, when he plans to run from John O’Groats to Land’s End, a roughly 1,000-mile route involving the equivalent of about 38 marathons with just two or three days’ break during the entire epic trip. “This will be my biggest challenge,” he said somewhat understatedly, “and not just physically but mentally as well.”

Whitehead was inspired to take up sport in the first place by Terry Fox, an amputee and cancer sufferer who attempted to run the breadth of Canada before his untimely death at the age of 22, and the idea of a run the length of Britain has been in the offing for about five years.

“Because of 2012 and the Games I wanted to use that as a platform to do what I wanted in sport,” Whitehead said. “I wanted to do something incredible or crazy or whatever you want to call it, and this is it. I sometimes smile to myself about the idea of running 1,000 miles.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map