David Weir – the most successful London Marathon athlete of all time – and Swiss star Marcel Hug, who’s won twice in the British capital, are expected to lead the pack in the Virgin Money London Marathon elite men’s wheelchair race. They both attended a socially distanced press conference at the elite athlete hotel today (Friday 2 October) ahead of the races on Sunday 4 October.

David Weir (GB)

On his excitement about competing in his 21st Virgin Money London Marathon:

“It’s been tough, all the races having been cancelled, but I’m just so thankful the London Marathon has managed to put a race on for us this year.”

On his new training base in Hastings:

“I moved there a year ago with my partner, who lived there. I was fortunate I did because Richmond Park [his training base] was locked down. It was my only training venue in London. I was lucky to find some good new courses and routes down in Hastings. It was different; a lot more winding and hillier. We’ve converted a garage into a training centre with rollers and weights.

“The only thing I missed was not being able to go to my wheelchair academy in Kingston on a Monday and Wednesday. I felt for my younger athletes who were struggling at home, so we did a lot of Zoom training sessions, which wasn’t the best, but it just perked everyone up.”

On his new racing wheelchair:

“I’ve had a pretty good lockdown. The new chair that I got in May has a made a massive difference. As soon as I got in it, it made me feel alive again. I felt I was struggling with my old chair that I’ve had for a while.

“The new one is made in the US. I’ve gone back to an aluminium chair because I feel they’re the best on the market for me – and they wanted to give me a chair! It’s been great to get into it.”

On the Abbott World Marathon Majors Accumulator sprints:

“This time, I’ve practised a lot of sprints and interval training because I’ve had a lot more time to focus. I’ll definitely be looking out for them on Sunday.”

On whether he’s as good as he’s ever been:

“Personally, I think the last two years I’ve struggled with mental health and stuff like that but, truthfully, for the last year or so I have probably been in the best mental shape I’ve ever been in.

“Leading into last year’s London Marathon, I struggled with infections, blood poisoning in January, then another infection just before Boston, so my training was in and out and it was a rush to get fit and that’s probably why I struggled [he finished fifth].

“This year I’ve not been ill, I’ve not had infections, mentally I’ve been in a better place. Yes, I’m 41, but I feel like I’m in better shape than I was for New York last year.”

On discovering that he had a heart problem:

“I had a few problems with my heart. They found I had a tiny hole at the top of it, so I had a few issues I had to try to sort out last year.

“They said I’ve had it since birth. I had it scanned last year and they said it was not a problem.

“A little bit of that got into my head after the London Marathon. I didn’t want to put my heart under pressure all the time, so I threw my heart rate monitor away and just focused on training hard and on how I felt.”

On the favourites among his eight London Marathon wins:

“There are a few actually. Obviously, to win the first one was truly special. When I see the pictures now, I look like a little teenager, it’s quite strange to see. And the year of 2012 – that was a fantastic year for me – and the last two. With my mental health issues at the time, I still can’t figure out how I pulled them out of the bag.”

On the looped course:

“It’s quite a challenge to keep going round and round the same course. It’s more of the mental side, which will make some of the athletes struggle. I’ve tried to mimic the race in training as much as I can, but everyone’s in the same situation.”

On whether the strange build-up could make this the most open of races:

“Yes, I think so, but I’ve raced Marcel [Hug] a lot of times and at all times of the year and he’s always been the same! For me, I’d love to do a couple of races before a major race and obviously I haven’t had that chance.

“But I’ve had a good block of training, which has helped a lot, and my numbers and timings seem to have been the best I’ve seen for a long time, so I’m quite confident on Sunday that I can be there or thereabouts with Marcel or whoever.

“I think it could be a sprinters’ race and it’s a fast course, so you’ve got to watch out for everyone.”

On whether winning a ninth London Marathon would be his crowning moment:

“Are you trying to retire me already? London Marathon for me has been part of my life since I started my racing career as an eight-year-old in the Mini Marathon.

“It’s the race I’ve always loved, the race I always watched on TV when I started – it was the only thing where you’d see people in wheelchairs on TV – so the London Marathon’s been part of me all my life.

“It would be amazing to win it again. It feels amazing every time I win it so, yes, it would be nice to crown off a win on Sunday, but the competition’s going be tough.

“There are a lot of guys who look like they’re pushing well but I’m not retiring yet. I haven’t put a date on that yet. I keep changing the date in my head, to be honest, it goes year by year.”

On what he’d say to the first-time marathoners in the ‘virtual’ race:

“Just enjoy it. I know it’s different and strange but I’ll be thinking about everyone on Sunday and cheering you on as well.”

Marcel Hug (Switzerland)

On his strange preparations:

“It was totally different this year to prepare for the London Marathon. It was very difficult circumstances, so many races cancelled, so it was really difficult for me and the coaches to plan training sessions.

“So you can’t imagine how excited I am to be here. I’m really happy and thankful that we can make this race. It will be a very special race this year.”

On the prospect of him and Manuela Schär making it a double Swiss triumph:

“It would mean a lot if we could both win; it would be very, very special for both of us.

“I guess Manuela has a very good chance to win; on my side, I’m not so sure. It’s going to be very difficult, but I will try my best.”

On life inside the biosecure race bubble:

“It’s a totally different experience for me. We knew there would be some things we had do to be safe and I think this is a good way to be safe. For me, it feels OK; I feel safe, so that’s fine.”

On what he thinks about Sunday’s ‘virtual’ runners:

“For me, it’s good to know there are 45,000 runners who are running virtually and we are not the only ones who are hurting and we are not alone. That’s good to know. I guess the most important thing is for them all to enjoy the marathon because it’s a special experience. Enjoy it to the end – even if hurts. And you can make it!”