Olympic Stories

Richard Whitehead - Marathon

Richard Whitehead - Marathon

Born on July 19, 1976, Richard Whitehead is an English marathon runner, a sprinter, and an all-around world-class athlete who, despite being a congenital double amputee, consistently competes with the best runners in the world. Richard will represent Great Britain in the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in London, competing in the 200m sprint that he recently added to his repertoire.

Although Whitehead was born without the lower halves of his legs, he has led an incredibly active life that few people experience. This accomplished marathon runner has one of the most disciplined training regimens in the business, and whether he’s running for distance or sprinting for speed, Richard’s never-say-quit attitude has propelled him to the top ranks in the world.

Sporting Career

Long before Richard Whitehead decided to become a marathon runner, he was still an athlete. Whitehead often competed in high caliber competitions on an international level, excelling in swimming in particular. He was also a very gifted cricket and sledge hockey player. One day, however, Richard got the bug and decided that running a marathon would be his next step. These days you can find Whitehead running all across the globe – where ever there may be a marathon. But it was one of the world’s most famous marathons that served as his starting point: the New York Marathon.

To train for the NCY marathon, Richard didn’t seek out any specialty equipment, unless you count the sports cups he fitted to his knees in order to run on the treadmill. Whitehead got through his training with grit and determination. But no matter how hard he trained, he could only manage to run 10 miles before his body simply gave out. Blisters, abrasions, exhaustion – the mere preparation for the marathon was taking its toll. Then, two weeks prior to the event, Richard received a pair of running prosthetics that would make all the difference. The flex run legs were donated to him by the company.

With these new prosthetics, Whitehead exponentially increased his running distance. He ultimately finished the marathon in just over five hours, and he hasn’t looked back since. Richard has run in the Snowdonia Marathon, the Ultra Marathon (twice), the Two Oceans Ultra, and a slew of other events.

2009 was a very fulfilling year for Whitehead. He became the first ever amputee to finish a marathon in under three hours. Since then, Richard has pushed himself harder and faster, deciding to add sprinting to his impressive list of accomplishments. He took home the gold at the World Finals in 2011 for the 200m sprint, and he hopes to repeat those results in the 2012 Paralympics.

Career Highlights

  • 2010 Chicago Marathon record holder – 2:42:52
  • 2010 World Finals – Gold
  • 2011 Paralympic World Cup – 400m World Record
  • 2011 IPC World Championships – Gold
  • 2012 Paralympic Games  - Gold

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