Derek Rae (coach: Ron Morrison, club: Fife) was the star of the show for the Great Britain & Northern Ireland team at the World Para Athletics Marathon Championships in London, as he sealed silver in the T45/46 marathon, a first global medal on this stage.
David Weir (Jenny Archer, Weir Archer Academy) was fifth in the T54 marathon, leading the British names in that contest, while Charlotte Ellis (New Marske) and guide Lucy Niemz were eighth in the women’s T12 race.
For Rae, it was a breakthrough performance, annihilating his previous personal best by over six minutes, clocking 2:27.08.
He started strongly, going through the opening 5km in 16:53, starting as he meant to go on. He was patient, sitting in third for long periods, with leader Michael Roegers of Australia manoeuvring his way to a world record time of 2:22.51.
A delighted Rae spoke afterwards: “I’m super proud; I’m proud of myself and the team. It’s a great individual achievement but also good to get the team going on the medal table for the World Championships. We’ve sacrificed a lot over the last six years; myself, my wife, my team; and now we are starting to reap the rewards. Proud is an understatement.
“It’s a huge PB. I knew I was in good shape coming into this one, at least sub 2:30 shape. I ran the whole race with confidence but quite conservatively. I don’t think it has sunk in yet, it’ll probably take a few weeks.”
After going through the half way mark in a ferocious 1:12.37, Rae says he just had to remain calm as he laid in third place behind Abdelhadi El Harti (MAR), who he would later overhaul around the 35km mark.
“I was just trying to remain conservative. Consistency is key in the marathon. I’ve done the miles, I’ve put in the effort, so I knew it was there, I just had to run with my head. I went through the first few miles with a tailwind, slightly downhill which was a bit of the sharp side, but I didn’t panic and settled into my rhythm. It just couldn’t have gone any better.”
The silver medal is an early addition to the World Para Athletics Championships medal table, the event itself taking place in Dubai later in November. However, with no marathon events in Dubai, this will add the first silver medal to the tally for Great Britain & Northern Ireland.
David Weir (Jenny Archer, Weir Archer Academy) – competing in his 20th London Marathon – crossed the line in fifth after a decisive move at the halfway point during the newly introduced 400m sprint, separated the leading three from the rest of the field including the eight-time champion.
Weir was up with the leading pack prior to this but an injection of pace from Daniel Romanchuk (USA) proved decisive, taking Marcel Hug (SUI) and Tomoki Suzuki (JPN) with him, and that ultimately was the top three, the American winning in 1:33.37.
Weir said post-race: “I just didn’t have it today. I knew he (Daniel Romanchuk) had it when he put the burners on after Tower Bridge. I was slower than previous years, I just had no energy to be honest. I don’t know whether it was the infections I had for a few weeks in the build-up, but I’m not going to make excuses, I just wasn’t good enough today.
“It’s just a one-off thing. I kept up with Marcel and Daniel in New York. I was with them all the way to the end, but it’s just one of those things.”
With Weir fifth in 1:37.32, JohnBoy Smith (Jenny Archer, Weir Archer Academy) was next across the line in 11th in a time of 1:38.33 despite coming down with flu during the week, and Simon Lawson (Ian Thompson, Carlisle Tri) was 15th in 1:39.58.
In the T11/12 race, Charlotte Ellis [Guide Runner; Lucy Niemz] (New Marske) captured a lifetime best of 3:23.47, lowering her best by two minutes and eight seconds. She eventually placed eighth overall on her debut in a British vest.
Ellis added: “We tried to stick to the plan but started to struggle around 21 mile and my calf really started to hurt around 23 miles. I still got a PB but I wanted it to be a bit quicker than that.
“The atmosphere was amazing. This was unreal, all these people were shouting my name and for Great Britain. It was a great experience.”