Weir and Whitehead gear up for London at Silverstone Half


Paralympic champions David Weir and Richard Whitehead will be looking to hit top gear at the home of British motor racing this Sunday (3 March) when they compete in the adidas Half Marathon, the official warm-up race for the Virgin London Marathon on 21 April.

Weir smashed the Silverstone course record to win the men’s wheelchair title 12 months ago before going on to claim his sixth London Marathon wheelchair crown and race to four gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Whitehead broke the T42 200m world record to win Paralympic gold last summer. He also holds the half marathon and marathon world records for double amputee runners.

The adidas Half Marathon at the famous Northampton race track is a crucial test of fitness for both athletes as they fine tune their preparations for the full marathon in six weeks’ time.

Whitehead will make his London Marathon debut in April in the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup while Weir will take on the best racers in the world as he aims to overtake Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and become the first wheelchair racer to win the London Marathon seven times.

In Silverstone last year he hacked nearly eight minutes from Simon Lawson’s course record when he took the chequered flag in 45 minutes 20 seconds with Lawson second more than six minutes behind.

Weir went on to break the world half marathon record in Lisbon a fortnight later, clocking 43:41 – the perfect tune-up for his triumphant year to come.

“Last year was a fantastic one for me and it all started at Silverstone,” said Weir. “Breaking the course record by such a big margin was a great boost of confidence with such a crucial year ahead and set me up well for the challenges to come.

“My focus is now on April’s London Marathon and the adidas Half Marathon on 3 March will give me a good indication of how close I am to hitting the form and fitness I achieved in 2012.”

There was a new name on the women’s wheelchair trophy in 2012 when Jane Egan ended Nikki Emerson’s three-year reign. The Scot is back to defend her title but it won’t be easy with Emerson gearing up to reclaim the crown and Paralympic track star Jade Jones also in the line-up.

Scott Overall will also press the accelerator on his marathon preparations in Silverstone when he leads a field of 10,000 runners over the 13.1-mile course. The 30-year-old Blackheath Harrier took the men’s title last year in 69 minutes 46 seconds as he revved up to represent Britain in the London Olympic marathon five months later.

Overall won by more than a minute in 2012, but with a half marathon personal best of 61:25, he will hope to get closer to Matt Smith’s eight-year-old course record of 65:23 before setting his sights on finishing top Briton at the London Marathon and gaining selection for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow this August.

Among the other notable names who will come under starter’s orders at 12 noon will be Emmerdale star Tony Audenshaw, one of the quickest celebrities ever at the London Marathon, plus fellow TV actors John Michie, Ray Macallan, Laura Aikman and Holly Davidson, all raising money for the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research charity.

Alongside them will be many of the country’s best club athletes plus thousands of fun runners, fund raisers and fancy dress joggers enjoying a day out at one of the country’s most famous sporting venues while preparing to play their part in one its greatest sporting events.

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