Virgin London Marathon 2013: Weir still has the hunger
20 April 2013
When David Weir equalled Tanni Grey-Tompson's record with his sixth London Marathon title a year ago he hinted that it might be his last. But after four gold medals at the Paralympic Games, he is back again in 2013 aiming to become the most successful wheelchair racer in the event's history.
You described last year's London Marathon as your most emotional victory because it might be your last, hinting that you might retire after London 2012. After four Paralympic gold medals and a CBE, it would have been the perfect time to bow out. What changed your mind?
"Before the last London Marathon I was driving up to London in the morning with my brother and a friend. And I said to them, ‘Look, this will probably be my last one.' They said, ‘No, no, you can't leave it at that.' At that point, I truly thought 2012 would be my last year.
"I wanted to stop, even just before the Games. But everything went so well there, with the training and the build up, and when I looked back on my Paralympic races I wasn't winning by millimetres, I was winning by chairs' lengths - so I knew the old dog still had some life in me.
"And the way the marathon went in the Paralympics, that changed my mind too. I knew if I could put that sort of training in I could get to that level again.
"And there are some other challenges which I couldn't avoid, like winning the London Marathon again. When I sat and reflected on things, I could see records that still need to be broken. I don't really want to stop when I'm equal with anyone. I'd like to be the main man, to get seven titles. It doesn't have to be this year; I'll carry on until I get it.
"I've got a two-year plan in my head - more road racing this year, then the Commonwealth Games [in Glasgow 2014]. So I've still got some challenges and I've still got the hunger."
What would it mean, in the light of all your Paralympic titles, to win a seventh London Marathon title?
"It would be up there with all of them. I love the London Marathon. It's in my home city, and I love it. I love the course because it's tough. A lot of the other races aren't like it. It's why I love getting fit for the marathon every year.
"And then there's what I achieved on the marathon course during the Paralympics - it will bring back memories of that too."
How many more London Marathons do you think you can do?
"If the average speed on my clock starts to struggle, then I'll know my time's up. It could be this year, next year, I just don't know. But if I just plan it right and peak at certain points in the year, I should be all right for a while yet.
"We'll see, but I think I can go on. Heinz [Frei, the 55-year-old Swiss marathon world record holder] has done it for years. If he can do it, I think I can too."
You've been coming to the London Marathon for more than 25 years. You won seven mini marathon titles and you've won six at the full marathon. How important has the event been throughout your career?
"Well, it was the first race I ever did when I was a youngster. I was eight at the time. But it was part of my life even before that, before I raced in it, because it was the only wheelchair race you ever saw on TV. So it's always been in my mind, for as long as I can remember.
"It was my dream when I was young, that I would win the full marathon. It was the one race that I most wanted to win in my career. Now I've done it six times, and I never get bored of it.
"I just love the event, I love being part of it. I love being associated with the race because it has been so fantastic for me."
Of all your London Marathon victories, which is your favourite?
"Last year was pretty special because I thought it might be the last one. It was the most emotional. And it was 2012, so it was a good start to the year. I'll always remember the first one too."
How has life been since the Paralympic Games? Has it been tough getting back to training?
"It has been tough. The desire has been there, but with appearances and all the rest it's been hard. I wanted to get back into training in November, but I was so busy I didn't get back into my chair until after Christmas.
"The first week back in training was great because it was about 10 degrees early in the New Year, so I thought this is fantastic. Then it went to about minus five and snowed, so I had to go on the treadmill which is boring. I'd rather go out in the cold. Once I've got my snood on, my hat on, a couple of layers, after the first couple of miles, it's OK.
"The hardest thing about getting back into it, isn't the mental side, really, it's the physical. I realised how much fitness I'd lost, and how fit I was going into the Games. That was the fittest I've ever been in my life, although I still think I could have peaked a little bit more, that I had a little bit more to give.
"I think I could have done the 400m as well. And I think I would have won it. But I had to weigh it up. With my schedule I got a good 24 hours rest between races. If I'd done the 400m as well, my recovery would have been very difficult."
And what about the future? You said recently you'd never say ‘Never' to the Paralympics in Rio 2016. You will be 37 then. Given how tough it was, how deep you had to dig in 2012, realistically, can you compete at that age?
"Yeah, I think so, if everything stays good. I need to be injury free, and mentally, you need to be focused to do that many events. But I can make that decision at the last minute. If my times are slower then I can stick to the longer stuff.
"But I never think about Rio, to be honest. The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is more in my mind than anything else. To go beyond that is pushing it a little bit. I've only got a two-year plan at the moment, then we'll see how it goes."
Do you worry about what life will be like once you stop competing?
"Not really, no, because I've got a young family. And I'm setting things up now for when I do retire, like an academy to help the next generation come through, and some other projects. I've got lots of ideas."