Richard Whitehead

Richard Whitehead London Marathon 2008

Fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support
raised of £3,000 target
by 56 supporters
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Event: Flora London Marathon 2008, on 13 April 2008
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Article below is from Runners World in South Africa!

Wanted to share this with you!Wanted you to understand im not the inspiration those that are fighting cancer everyday are, and i feel humbled to be able to give my time to support such heros. 

Richard the Lionheart

Thanks to my job I've been fortunate to be right there to witness some incredible running feats over the years, but watching double amputee Richard Whitehead finish the Comrades Marathon on Sunday was probably one of the greatest running moments I will ever see. - By Sean Falconer

Every runner that finishes the Comrades Marathon is a hero, but this year we saw a few runners who should be classified as super-heroes for their efforts. One of them is Johnny Demas, the blind runner who ran his 20th Comrades, and another is Richard Whitehead, the Englishman born with no legs who ran the 89.3km race on steel prosthetic legs, the first double amputee to run the race.

Whitehead won the BBC Disabled Sportsman of the Year award in 2006 after taking up road running in 2004. He has completed the New York Marathon twice and last year he ran a sub-4-hour marathon in London, the first double amputee to do so. He has also represented Great Britain at cricket, swimming and sledge hockey, the Paralympic equivalent of ice hockey.

I met Richard for the first time last year when he completed the 56km Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town. I was stationed just beyond the finish line and was interviewing random finishers who we then photographed for what became an award-winning photo-feature in the magazine.

I reckon one of the reasons for those awards was the inclusion of a picture of Richard, standing next to South African single amputee Estienne Arndt, who had hosted his stay in South Africa and started the race alongside him. Estienne had bailed the race after some 30km because he was not feeling well, and he was simply blown away by how well Richard had run, despite never having gone beyond the marathon distance and never having run such a hilly course before.

Well, this past weekend Richard made that Oceans run look like a walk in the park by completing the Comrades Marathon. He finished in just under 10 hours, surrounded by runners who literally lined up on the finish line to hug him, shake his hand, congratulate him, pose for a photo with him and tell him how inspirational he was.

Then he spotted Estienne standing next to the finish area, in the VIP viewing area, and sprinted across the finish area to throw his arms around his South African friend in an emotional hug that no doubt left a lump in the throat of everybody watching it all on TV.

I was standing right there watching this all happen, and while Richard was interviewed by the SABC television people, I asked Estienne whether Richard was going to slip out the side gate and avoid the crowds in the finish area and the even thicker crowds just outside the finish chutes. Estienne said they would probably take him out the side, but when I asked Richard what he wanted to do, he opted for the same as all other runners, so with his hand on my shoulder for a little balance, the two of us set off on a slow walk through the finishing tunnels.

The reason it was a slow walk was not because he was tired or unable to walk faster. It was because pretty much every metre of the way we were stopped by somebody wanting to wish Richard well for his incredible run. For me, it was an absolute honour just to be able to offer him a little support as we made our way through the finish area to where Estienne was waiting for him at the exit gate. (I first managed to steer him to the side where we were taking pics for another Runner's World photo-special for the magazine.)

Richard's successful finishing of the Comrades showed that this race can be done by anybody who puts their mind to it. I am by no means implying that the race should be easy for able-bodied runners. What I am saying is that with the proper training and the right motivation, we can all finish the race – or any other challenge we put our minds to attempting.

I rate Richard Whitehead as one of my all-time heroes and inspirations, and I hope I get to interview him many more times after he finishes races in South Africa.

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Many thanks for your support.

About the charity

Macmillan Cancer Support

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At Macmillan, we will move mountains to help people with cancer live life as fully as they can. We’re doing whatever it takes. But without your help we can’t support everyone who needs us. To donate, volunteer, raise money or campaign with us, call 0300 1000 200 or visit

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