When British wheelchair racer David Weir crossed the finish line of the London Marathon in first place last year, he felt no emotion.
Weir had secured a record seventh win in the British capital, he had beaten Paralympic champion Marcel Hug to the line in a sprint finish, but he couldn’t celebrate.
“It’s only when I look back now and see that final sprint, it was probably the best race I’ve done in my career,” said Weir, who had announced his retirement from the track after the Rio Paralympic Games.
“People thought I was dead and buried and retired and thinking I haven’t got it anymore, so it was nice to prove a point, but to be honest I had no emotions so it was really hard to celebrate.”
Weir was suffering from depression and unsure whether he was going to continue road racing. Instead he took a break from the sport; fans and the media were left unsure whether he would race again.
But now he’s back, ready to race around the streets of London once again.
“I just love turning up and doing this race. It’s my home city, I’m a London lad and I just love the streets of London. It’s a big day for me,” said the 38-year-old, who lines up in his nineteenth London Marathon on Sunday (22 April).
“Having time out has done me a lot of good. I feel mentally and physically a lot fresher than I was after Rio.
“I’m enjoying training and racing again which I wasn’t for the last couple of years. It was quite a challenge to get fit for London last year and this year it’s a lot easier because I’m enjoying getting up and going training.”
Weir feels ‘100 per cent’ like a different person this year – which could be bad news for Marcel Hug, the man who has dominated marathon racing in recent seasons.
The Swiss Silver Bullet won in Boston on Monday (16 April), battling through the wet and windy conditions to seal his fourth consecutive title in the US city.
The 32-year-old, who has already secured the Abbott World Marathon Majors Series, knows London will present new challenges.
“Of course the Boston Marathon gave me some confidence, but not too much because this marathon here in London is totally different – the course, the weather conditions and the competitors like David,” said Hug.
“I don’t know how strong David is. It’s his course, he’s from here, he knows everything here. It makes it different.
“I definitely have to think about my plan because last year it didn’t go too well at the end – maybe I have to try something different!”
As for Weir, despite only racing one Marathon in the last twelve months – he raced in Paris one week ago, suffering a puncture after 21 miles – he is looking forward to racing round the streets he knows so well.
“At the end of the day I don’t feel rusty. I don’t feel like I’m lacking in anything. I feel much better than last year to be honest,” he said.
“I feel a lot more relaxed. I held a lot of things in when I was here last year to be honest, which was quite difficult. But I feel like I’m mentally ready for anything.
“Paris was just a hiccough with a puncture, but I felt pretty strong and comfortable and ready to race - same coming in to this race. It will be nice to race with the top guys again.”
As for racing against Hug, the Briton proved last year that he can be beaten.
“Marcel’s a pleasure to race with. He s a nice guy and he works so hard to be the best at his game,” added Weir.
“He’s a tough competitor. I know he’s been beaten a few times on the track but on the road he’s an animal. It’s hard to break him, but you can. Anyone can be broken. It’s not just about him on Sunday and you can’t underestimate anyone.”