“I just kept pushing as fast as I could. I was feeling good the whole way, I was really active in the group, but I knew David is really good at sprinting. He was always there behind me and you never know who wins in the sprint."
Switzerland’s world marathon champion Marcel Hug finally sealed his first victory in the men’s wheelchair race at the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 13 April after finishing runner-up three times in the last four years.
The 28-year-old led a break-away group of four racers in the closing stages of the race, with six-times winner and local favourite David Weir always looking a threat, tucked in behind.
But Hug, who won the Paris marathon a week ago to add to his victory in New York last November, held on strongly round the final bend up the Mall and pushed hard to the line to finish in 1:32:41, keeping Weir at bay just one second behind, and upsetting the Briton’s quest for a record breaking seventh win in the capital.
“I just kept pushing as fast as I could. I was feeling good the whole way, I was really active in the group, but I knew David is really good at sprinting. He was always there behind me and you never know who wins in the sprint,” Hug said.
A few weeks ago the pair raced in the Lisbon half marathon with Hug coming out on top, a result that gave the Swiss extra belief in his abilities.
“I beat him by about a minute [in Lisbon] so I had confidence from that, but I knew he was training really well the last few weeks, and you never know in the sprint - he is always strong.”
The race had started slowly, with Boston 2013 champion Hiroyuki Yamamoto taking the lead in the early stages. But Hug and Weir were always there, ready to pounce, and the duo stretched the pack half way in, with only Ernst van Dyk and Kota Hokinoue able to keep in touch.
“I tried many times to break away, but it was not possible, and then suddenly we were only four people and it was good,” Hug explained. “It was an advantage to be only four because if there are too many there is too much risk of a crash, or too many racers in a final sprint.”
Victory in London meant a lot to the man known as the ‘Swiss Silver Bullet’, having won Paralympic silver over the same course in 2012, before being beaten on the line by Kurt Fearnley 12 months ago. This time around, Hug was determined to make sure everything went to plan.
“Last year it was terrible, second place,” said Hug. “Kurt Fearnley was on the other side and I hadn’t seen him, so I told myself I should make it better this year.
“The last 2 or 3km was really slow, so I could save some energy. For me it was important to be in front when it goes to the final corner, so it was a tactic that I wanted to be in front,” he added.
Van Dyk clinched third for the second year in a row, clocking 1:32:42, with Japan’s Hokinoue just behind the South African in fourth.
Frenchman Pierre Fairbank led the rest of the field more than two minutes later, in a pack that included Hug’s compatriot and marathon world record holder Heinz Frei, whilst Canadian Josh Cassidy, winner in London in 2010, finished back in 20th place.
Hug is now aiming for yet another marathon win, as he prepares to head to the US for next week’s Boston marathon. As ever, he keeps a cool head. “I still feel good, tomorrow I go home for some days to rest to relax and recover, and I look forward to Boston.”