David Weir (coach: Jenny Archer; club: Weir Archer Academy) and Shelly Woods (Peter Wyman; Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde) showed their quality in tough conditions at the Thruxton Circuit and Venue as they recorded victories at the inaugural Müller 2021 Wheelchair Marathon, Thruxton Circuit.
Weir scored a comprehensive win in the men’s marathon, but he was pushed over the opening four laps of the 12-lap contest by Danny Sidbury (Christine Parsloe; Sutton & District) who would go on to claim second place and a personal best.
Sidbury led from Weir in the opening stages with the multiple Paralympic champion tucking in behind the Sutton & District athlete as the wind continued to pick up around the circuit. JohnBoy Smith (Christine Parsloe) was tracking their every move over these early moments of the contest, while Michael McCabe (Christine Parsloe; Sutton & District), who was completing the half marathon distance, followed behind.
As they entered the finishing straight to embark on their fifth lap, Weir had opened a small lead on Sidbury, and he never looked back. At one stage, he was on track for the 1hr35 pace but as the gusty conditions added to the complex nature of the task ahead, he crossed the line in 1:44:45.
Sidbury was not far behind, crossing the line in 1:46:01, taking 23 seconds off his previous best. Meanwhile, as JohnBoy Smith dropped out due to a shoulder issue, Callum Hall (Leeds City) moved into third place after the halfway mark, and a display of perseverance – racing alone for almost 25 miles – saw him ultimately finish in that position in a time of 1:48:20.
Weir said post-race, “To be honest, it is probably one of the toughest marathons I have done in a long time. Quite a tough one to start the season but I’m just thankful that we could get out and do something. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have had a marathon until Tokyo. It’s good practice and it shows me what I need to do in the next phase of training. For this time of the year, I’m in pretty good shape, probably the best shape I’ve been in for as long as I can remember. So, I’m pretty pleased with the performance.
“It’s nice to be out and see some of the lads as well and see these young athletes competing in the marathon distance.
“I haven’t got the top ten athletes here and I was going out on my own, but I felt pretty strong all the way around. Usually it takes me a few marathons to get up to speed. I’m hoping I’ll get the opportunity to race abroad at some point, so we’ll have to see. It’s a good start so I am happy.”
In what she described as the ‘toughest marathon she’s ever done’, Shelly Woods won the women’s marathon in a time of 2:00:40.
Working with Sammi Kinghorn (Rodger Harkins; Red Star) around the first six laps, Woods clocked her fastest 3.6km lap of 9:39:1 on in the first loop and she showed patience as she took on the final half of the marathon in a solo effort. It was a solid push over the final few laps as she took the win to show her credentials in Paralympic year.
Woods said afterwards, “It was very very tough. I was aiming for 1:58 (the Minimum Entry standard for the Paralympics) but I was just outside it. But with those conditions I am quite pleased with the time I did. It was brutal out there but, it is great to race. There aren’t many opportunities to race at the moment, especially the big marathons, so it’s amazing that British Athletics were able to put this event on.
“My training has been going well and I’ve proved I can do a good time. I’m still coming back after I had my son. I had some time out after London Paralympics and didn’t go to Rio. It’s my son’s fourth birthday today, so I’m still steadily getting my times back up there. I feel like I’m getting better all the time, so that is a good thing.”
Mel Nicholls (Job King; Coventry) was second placed female athlete in the 26.2-mile race, recording a time of 2:22:48.
Athletes also had the option of competing over the half marathon or the 10km at Thruxton due to limited competition opportunities over the last year.
The aforementioned Kinghorn finished 13.1 miles in 58 minutes following a solid push, while Michael McCabe was the first male finisher over the distance in 56:14.
Only two athletes competed over 10km; multiple European medallist Ben Rowlings (Coventry) was the first across the line in 30:28, while World Para Athletics Junior champion Zien Zhou (Job King; Coventry) was second in 33:35.