Meet Richard Whitehead
Paralympic Marathon and 200m (T42)
- 400m World Record at Paralympic World Cup 2011, 57:06s
- 200m World Record Holder, Olympic Stadium 2012, 25:50s
- Gold – 200m IPC World Championships 2011, 25:88s
- Marathon World Record holder Chicago Marathon 2:42:52s
Richard is a congenital double amputee, before his success in running he competed at an international level and won medals in swimming, cricket and sledge hockey.
In 2004, with Canada’s Terry Fox as his inspiration, Richard entered the New York Marathon despite never having run one single mile before. Initial training took place on a treadmill on his knees using sport cups. By summer he’d only managed ten miles, which destroyed him mentally and physically, leaving him with blisters the size of a 50p. Weeks before the race he found out about a special running prosthetic that could help to make his running dream a reality, but at £2,000 per leg they were out of his reach. Then out of the blue the company behind the technology donated two flex run, running feet. With just 13 days to go before the New York Marathon he received his new running legs. With two days to go before the race he ran 18 miles, although this was the furthest he’d ever run he was left feeling nauseous and extremely distressed. He finished the race in 5 hours 18 minutes, achieving something that he never thought he could.
Since New York he has run numerous marathons including the notorious Snowdonia Marathon and two Ultra Marathons -Comrades and Two Oceans Ultra (34.5miles). In 2009, he became the first amputee to break the 3 hour barrier in a marathon and continues to push himself to break record after record.
In 2010 it was confirmed that Richard would not be able to compete in the Marathon during London 2012, due to his classification not being represented in this event. With this news Richard set about changing his focus to the track, and events specific for his classification which were included in the Paralympic programme. 2011 was a year of great successes for Richard, he opened with a Gold medal and championship record at the IPC World Championships and then went on to break the 200m and 400m world records. The shift to become a full time athlete has taken some time to adjust to but his results highlight that it was the right move for him as he prepares for London. He hopes to be able to compete in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m during the London 2012 Games.
From an early age Richard’s family have always supported and encouraged him to experience everything. In January 2011 Richard ceased his work with Nottingham City Council and became a fulltime athlete. He is coached by British Marathon runner Liz Yelling and Keith Antoine on the track in Loughborough.
Richard summaries everything that he does as “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” which is also tattooed on his arm.