Hill has the best seat in the race

Click to follow
The Independent Online
For just over an hour tomorrow, wheelchair distance racing can grab a moment of fame. Rose Hill, one of our unsung champions, holds the women's British record for the wheelchair marathon.

Tomorrow she will line up with 64 men in the London wheelchair Marathon to aim for a new record, and to beat more than half of her male rivals in the process: "When I race with the men I take the front. Men seem to find racing with women threatening, so they always up the speed to make it harder."

Unlike its able-bodied counterpart, the wheelchair marathon is into sex equality. "The international guys are tough," Hill, 39, said. "If they think a woman is with them just to help herself along, then they'll drop her straight away. But if I think there's no real competition with the girls then I go to race within a group of men."

And these men have something to worry about. Hill started training 13 years ago for the marathon alone, doing up to 22 miles a day in her old NHS day chair. She goes for a challenge and never gives up.

"I train four hours a day, doing roadwork and weights. My coach, Peter Eriksson, faxes me training programmes from Canada. I don't need any more motivation than that."

She took up marathons to raise money after experiencing first-hand the lack of paraplegic hospital beds: "I had to wait six months to get an infected leg treated and it was touch and go when I saw the surgeon. There was only one hospital bed for paraplegics. I said if he cured me I'd do the London Marathon to raise money for more. I kept my word.

"To qualify I had to do one other marathon. There wasn't much time and the only one was at Abingdon. It was a hilly course and it poured with rain. The qualifying time was 3hr 30min. I did 3:22. I was determined."

Hill, restricted to her wheelchair since a road accident 16 years ago, amazed family, friends and herself by finishing third in the women's event there.

"The London Marathon is special, there's no doubt about it. It was my first real competition in 1991 and it was then that I really got the bug that started me off." She went on to win the women's event in 1993, and to set a British record of 1:43:52 in Switzerland later the same year. If Hill has her way, that will not stand much longer.

The British record holder is also setting a precedent. She is using the event to raise over £1,000 for the charity Motability.

Comments