Manuela Schär and Shelly Woods, two of the star names in the outstanding Virgin Money London Marathon elite women’s wheelchair race field, attended a socially distanced press conference at the elite athlete hotel today (Friday 2 October) in the build-up to the races on Sunday 4 October.

Shelly Woods (GB)

On the difficulty of preparing during lockdown:

“It’s crazy times for everyone right now. It’s been quite challenging. All our training venues were shut, we had to adapt a lot. I pretty much had to build my own home gym and find other ways to get out on the road.

“Like everyone else around the country, it’s been challenging at times, but it’s been good fun. And you’ve got keep your spirits high. And personally, I don’t think you’ll ever get this time at home again. So though it’s not been a great situation, we’ve tried to make the most of it.”

On the challenges of preparing while caring for her young son:

“I think the most challenging thing for me was being at home with a little one, trying to work from home. All the nurseries were shut. My little boy’s three and I had to juggle looking after him with getting my training done.

On adapting to the new challenges:

“Although I don’t race on the track any more, I still train on the track and obviously that was shut. You just had to adapt and improvise. I had my rollers at home and I kind of saw it coming a little bit. Me and my husband jumped online and bought some adjustable dumbbells before we got locked down. We were really lucky and were able to carry ongoing strength work at home.”

On the challenges of the looped course:

“I’ve never raced on a course like this before. I’m just really happy to be here. This is the only opportunity we’ve had to race on the road this year and it’s just great that the London Marathon has been able to make it happen.”

On the Abbott World Marathon Majors sprint accumulator competition that will be a feature within Sunday’s race:

“I think it’s great to mix things up a bit. I’ve not done any of the sprint bonuses before but I’m aware of them and I’ll just have to remember what laps they are on! It makes the race a little more exciting I think – a race within a race.”

On how she’s performing after making her comeback to the sport:

“I’ve not been back racing very long after having some time out after having a baby. I’m really pleased about my decision to come back to race and I’m really enjoying it. I don’t have too much pressure on myself; I just wanted to see if I could get back to a good level.

“Over the winter, I did some really good training but, with the lockdown, I kind of reassessed things. You’re always focusing on that next race and because we had no races, I took a step back and trained a little differently.

“It’s been OK, so we’ll see what improvements I’ve made on Sunday. I’m really looking forward to it.”

On the wheelchair races being showcased as the last event on Sunday:

“It’s great isn’t it? How good is that for them to be showing the race live? Over the years, the coverage has got better and better but there has never really been a focus on the wheelchair race so it’s incredible and really cool to be able to say to my mum, ‘you can watch on TV’.”

On the achievements of David Weir:

“He’s a legend, isn’t he? What he’s achieved during his whole career has been amazing. I’ve witnessed him first-hand in training – he’s an absolute beast ¬– and 21 London Marathons is amazing. I don’t think I’ve done half the races he’s done. It’s just incredible to keep coming back. It’s very cool that we’re sharing the same Start Line.”

On how the weather might intervene on Sunday:

“The weather does play a part. You have to make sure you’ve got the right set of gloves, especially if it’s wet. It’s about making the right call on whether it’s going to rain.”

On what she would say to Sunday’s 45,000 virtual runners:

“I think it’s great. 2020 has been a tricky year but it’s not stopping people from getting out there. Just get out there and do it. Do your best and enjoy it.”

Manuela Schär (Switzerland)

On life inside the Virgin Money London Marathon’s biosecure bubble:

“These days everything is a bit different. You don’t get to socialise as much with other people as you usually do, but it’s probably the safest place on Earth right now.”

On her preparations amid the coronavirus pandemic:

“We had a six-week lockdown in Switzerland and everything was closed, even tracks, so we had to improvise a little bit, but I kind of saw it coming so we had everything ready at home. It was not easy but it had its plus side – a lot of time to do stuff you never get to do normally.

“I thought it was good training actually. I felt really strong coming out of the lockdown and going back to the track.”

On the challenges of the looped course at St James’s Park:

“I’ve never done a course with so many laps. It’s going to be different; I’m definitely going to miss the long stretches where you can just push, push, push. Every turn we’ll have to touch our steering so that always breaks the rhythm a little bit. I also wonder how it’s going to feel mentally to be doing so many laps.”

On being back to improve her remarkable winning streak after not competing in Tokyo:

“2019 was such a busy, exciting year then it went from 100 to zero. But I’m so excited to be back. I just want to enjoy it and make the best of it.”

On competing alongside the men on Sunday:

“I don’t focus on the men’s race. I’ll just focus on my race and see how it feels to do the laps.”

On what keeps motivating her:

“I haven’t achieved everything. In London 2012 and Rio 2016 [Paralympics], I couldn’t show my best and I still want to win Paralympic medals. 2020 was supposed to be a big year for me, for everyone, so there’s still a lot I want to achieve – it’s no problem to keep motivated.”

On what she and her fellow racer Marcel Hug are doing for Swiss sport:

“It’s actually great. It’s great to win a major marathon but even better if you know the men’s race is won by your Swiss friend and teammate. Marcel is a great athlete and it’s great that we can represent Switzerland, such a tiny country. Makes me proud also.”

On the prospect of rain affecting Sunday’s race:

“It does affect us a lot. The biggest problem is that you lose the grip you normally have. Me personally, I don’t like it too much; I’m not a good athlete in rainy conditions; let’s hope for dry conditions.”

On the open nature of the race:

“It’s a different situation. Normally we get to see each other race so often and do all the Majors so you usually know everybody’s shape and where you stand, but we don’t have that at the moment. So it’s a completely new situation. It’s going to be a surprise, so I just try to focus on myself.”