McFadden breaks course record with London Marathon win

By International Paralympic Committee | April 13, 2014, 12:14 p.m. (ET)
Tatyana McFadden
Tatyana McFadden of United States poses with Manuela Schar (left) of Switzerland, who finished second, and Wakako Tsuchida (right) of Japan, who finished third, following the 2014 London Marathon on April 13.

Tatyana McFadden defended her  London Marathon title in impressive style on April 13, cruising to victory well clear of the field and setting a new course record in the process.

The American showed that she was none the worse following an eventful and demanding start to the year in which she took part in her first ever Winter Paralympic Games, clinching silver in the 1 kilometer cross country sprint in Sochi to add to her 10 medals from three summer Games.

McFadden only returned from Russia three weeks ago but she showed no signs of fatigue as she powered round the course, finishing in 1:45:12, nearly a minute faster than her winning time last year.

“After Sochi I was really unsure how I was going do to and how strong I felt, so I had to really stay relaxed and just remember to stay in on the down, and climb as hard as I could up,” McFadden said.

“I’ve been really worried because I knew a lot of the athletes had been in Australia training, and had been on roads and on the track, so I was worried if I hadn’t done enough.

“It was a really exciting win for me, this year has been pretty emotional, and winning London was unbelievable as well, it was a great start to the track season for me.”

Early on in the winding 26.2mile course, 2010 winner Wakako Tsuchida pushed hard downhill, but McFadden caught her on the uphill climb and together with marathon world champion Manuela Schar, the three athletes broke free from the pack.

Then at the half way stage McFadden made her move, pushing away from Schar and Tsuchida. The 24-year-old stretched her lead as each mile passed, focusing on maintaining her speed as she raced on alone.

“I was concentrating each mile on where I wanted to be, and on my positioning,” explained McFadden. “Half way is really hard to try to maintain and be in front, so I just tried to keep a speed that was reasonable for myself, and that I could carry throughout the entire race.”

McFadden crossed the line over 90 seconds clear of her rivals, but a new course record hadn’t been on her mind.

“I was thinking about being in the moment,” she explained. “It’s hard going by yourself because you get exhausted, you’re not sharing the work with anyone - it can be mentally draining knowing that you still have 13 more miles to go. I just tried to stay focussed and not go too hard. I was sort of aware of my time but I mostly was looking at my speed.”

Schar took second, in 1:46:42, with Tsuchida following a second behind. McFadden’s University of Illinois team mate Susannah Scaroni finished a highly respectable fourth in only her third year of marathon racing, but British hopeful and two-time winner Shelly Woods only managed sixth this year, although she remained upbeat about the season ahead.

The win in London marks yet more success for the triple Paralympic gold medalist who dominated marathon racing in 2013, winning all four major races in Boston, London, Chicago and New York, as well as winning no fewer than six gold medals on the track at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France. But McFadden doesn't take winning for granted – even although she struggles to recall the last time she was beaten in a race.

“Each win is so unique and so different, anything could happen,” she said. “You could puncture, or get boxed in. I just want to keep trying to be an elite athlete and make it my life and my job. Each race I get so nervous because you don’t know what could happen - that’s the beauty of the sport.”

Meanwhile there’s no rest yet for McFadden who flies back to the United States to prepare for the defense of her Boston Marathon title – and the Boston London Wheelchair Challenge, for athletes competing in both races - in eight days’ time on her 25th birthday.

You might not bet against her winning – but as for birthday celebrations? There’s not much that can keep this athlete from putting in the miles.