Paralympic sprint champion Liam Malone is back running.
The 24-year-old won two gold medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics in the 200m and 400m events but intends going further this weekend – 41 kilometres further – when he competes in the Hawkes Bay marathon.
Malone announced his retirement from top level competition in January.
He told RNZ sports editor Stephen Hewson he only decided to run Saturday’s marathon on the spur of the moment and had only 10 training runs under his belt.
“I probably don’t appreciate the challenge I will be facing on Saturday.
“Compared to the training I had been doing for the track – for 400 metre training at a maximum you would run one kilometre,” said Malone.
“Some people might think just because you are an athlete previously it will be easy to run a marathon, but they are actually vastly different challenges. In this I am really just a novice person, not an athlete taking on a challenge, with an added factor that I have two artificial legs not designed for long distance running.”
Malone said he had no issues in dealing with failure, saying that despite his image of a multiple gold medal-winning athlete, he was actually more used to finishing on the wrong side of the ledger.
“I am actually more accustomed to failure and being laughed at. Until Rio I had never won a race in my life and before that I really didn’t have the tools or technology in my blades to be good at any sport. For most of my life I have endured failure after failure. It has always been about getting to the end and satisfying my own objectives.
“I guess if you are asking how I am going to define success, my answer is I will be really happy to get to the end of the marathon and not be on crutches or in a wheelchair the next day, it is that simple. And if I can run the whole marathon that too will be success. That is not because I am unfit, but it is more about having to deal with such pain over a long period of time will be very challenging.”
While most people talk about the 20-mile mark in a marathon, Malone expected that his biggest test will come earlier, with his legs soaked in blood inside his specially designed carbon fibre blades.
“At the half marathon mark the questions will start arising. I know everyone says 30km is where you face challenges, but if I get to 30km I know I will be sweet.
“The biggest issue for me is not fitness but dealing with the pain – my legs are not made for long distance and my blades are the ones I used on the track, they have not been modified in any way – I will be carrying my full bodyweight through a couple of areas of skin about the size of my wrist.
“Being prepared to fail is really important. I am not nervous about anything other than the sheer amount of pain I will put myself through and the chance of serious damage to one of my legs. “
Malone is heading to Napier without a support team or others taking on the event with him, but was keen to make some new friends along the way.
“I got entered into this event as a result of my workmates, but now I am not even sure if they are going. I am going to be going solo, so anyone that is there and knows who I am and wants to say hi or run with me, I would love some company at that slow pace and have someone to chat to.
And perhaps share a celebratory drink at the end.
“I am not a big drinker, but I definitely will be having a glass to celebrate at the end, it will be a nice red.”