An interview with Richard Whitehead

Paralympian and marathon world record holder Richard Whitehead has teamed up with Ikano Bank to encourage more people than ever to enter this year’s Ikano Bank Robin Hood Marathon.

We talk to him in the build up to Rio about preparation, motivation and what helps him go #TheExtraMile.


Ikano Bank: Has sport always played an important part in your life?

Richard Whitehead: Yes, I started getting involved in sport at an early age. I was born a congenital above-the- knee double amputee and my parents saw sport as a way of ensuring that I got involved in mainstream activities and engaged with new friendship groups. Sport is a great way to break down barriers.

I found I had a natural athleticism and excelled at swimming, gymnastics and ice hockey before I got into running.

 

IB: Where and when was your very first marathon?

RW: My first race was the New York marathon in 2004 and it was probably the toughest point in my career. When I entered, I hadn’t even run one mile and the training and preparation tested me in every way possible. It was 26.4 miles of the complete unknown. But the support I got on the day was absolutely incredible. I finished it in 5 hours 18 minutes. It was a life changing moment and the start of my distance career.

 

IB: In 2013 you completed 40 marathons in 40 days. What motivated you to take on such a challenge?

RW: An inspirational athlete called Terry Fox. Terry was an amputee and sarcoma cancer sufferer who attempted to run the breadth of Canada before his death at the age of 22. Sadly he never completed his challenge. The idea to run the length of Britain came from him.

 

IB: Would you do it again?!

RW: No! But only because that kind of thing is a once-in-a-lifetime challenge. It pushed me to the limits but was an epic journey and something that will live with me forever. What kept me going was the determination to prove that everyone can live a life without limits, whatever challenges are put in their way.

I would definitely take on a different challenge on a similar scale again though.

"Whether it’s your first marathon or your 21st, planning is key. Set yourself realistic goals."

IB: What has been your career highlight?

RW: It would have to be winning gold in front of a home crowd at London 2012. I originally wanted to compete in the marathon event, however there was no category for leg amputees and I was refused permission by the IPC to complete against upper body amputees. I decided to turn my efforts to the sprinting events and smashed the T42 200m world record with a time of 24.38 seconds. That was a pretty good day!

 

IB: What do you still want to achieve in life?

RW: I want to continue to set the bar high for para athletics and support the development of future talent. I am passionate about promoting accessibility and continued investment is grassroots sport and would like to get more involved in that in the future.

Obviously the focus at the moment is firmly on Rio and delivering the best possible performance there. 

 

IB: Do you have any tips for those running this year’s Ikano Bank Robin Hood Marathon?

RW: Whether it’s your first marathon or your 21st, planning is key. Set yourself realistic goals, have a sensible training plan in place and don’t forget to fuel your body through a balanced and nutritional diet. But most importantly, don’t put yourself under too much pressure and just enjoy it!

 

IB: Tell us about your partnership with Ikano Bank and the Robin Hood Marathon.

RW: It’s great to be involved with my home town marathon - I’ve run here five times myself - and I really like Ikano Bank’s ethos of encouraging people to lead active and healthy lives. It’s all about encouraging more people than ever to get involved on the 25th September and we’re helping people to go ‘The Extra Mile’ - whatever that might mean to them - with online support and advice and a downloadable training guide.