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THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT OF THE HUMAN RACE
WHITEHEAD ON HIS WAY TO ‘COMRADES’ ULTRA-MARATHON, 17 JUNE 2007
The UK’s marathon man extraordinaire Richard Whitehead is soon to embark on probably the biggest challenge in his running career to date. June 17 will see him under the hot South African sun taking part in the country’s notorious ultra marathon, better known as the Comrades, starting from Pietermartizburg and finishing in Durban.
The 89km (56mile) race is run over a strenuous course, which can be best described as "the Big Five"; five hills where the downhill slopes can put runners under as much pressure as the uphill ones. Billed as ‘the Human Race’, participants have a maximum of 12 hours to complete the gruelling run, a true test of body, endurance and will power.
Richard Whitehead was born 30 years ago with no legs below the knees, but his disability continues to inspire him and everyone who hears about him. Having represented Great Britain at cricket, swimming and the Paralympic equivalent to ice hockey – sledge hockey, Richard began to apply his determination and natural athleticism to long-distance running in 2004.
Since then his love of the sport has seen him complete two New York Marathons and this year he broke the four-hour barrier during the London Marathon, the first time ever for a bilateral amputee. (Official time 3:52:58)
As a member of Team Össur, Richard is supported with prosthetic componentry by the company who developed and produce his distinctive C-shaped Flex-Run® feet. An international company specialising in non-invasive orthopaedics, Össur’s motto is Life Without Limitations, something it is keen to help Richard pursue.
Discussing his hopes and fears for the event Richard said: “It’s the longest time I’ll have ever been on my running legs. And the humidity and heat will certainly be a challenge.
“But South African communities are extremely positive and proactive in their support of runners and sportspeople, whatever their abilities. I’m looking forward to experiencing that again and to proving that a runner like me can complete the course. Although finishing is only part of the motivation, it’s a very emotional and rewarding part of the journey.”
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