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May 17, 2024 at 4:19 pm

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Q & A with Claudia Burrough on Wheelchair Racing and smashing the course record back in February

Did you know that not only is 2025 our 35th Anniversary, but it will also be the 8th year of staging our Wheelchair Races.

Claudia Burrough smashed the course record in the Brighton Half back in February which is all the more amazing as she only started wheelchair racing during the pandemic.  We recently caught up with Claudia to talk about her journey into the sport.

What attracted you to wheelchair racing as a sport and how did you first get involved?

In 2017 I got into running through parkrun, I’d always been pretty active and played a lot of sports but didn’t particularly like running but parkrun changed that. I got the bug and signed up to do London Marathon in 2019 however, in 2018 I became a wheelchair user. I thought that would be the end of doing parkruns and I’d never be able to do the London Marathon but I was told I could take part in my wheelchair. I couldn’t push my chair more than 100 metres so a marathon felt a very long way off but gradually through parkrun I built up my strength and stamina and finished the 2019 London Marathon in 4:00.02 and was hooked.

I signed up for more races in my day chair and absolutely loved the sense of freedom it gave me. I had seen competitive wheelchair racers at events but wasn’t particularly interested at that point, I enjoyed taking part in my day chair with the other runners. During the pandemic I felt a bit lost without events to focus on, but it also gave me time to realise I wanted a new challenge which is when I got in touch with the Weir Archer Academy and started wheelchair racing. I’ve not looked back since and absolutely love the opportunity to train alongside some incredible world class athletes. I still do some events in my day chair but mainly focus on competitive wheelchair racing now.

You train at the Weir Archer Academy – whose roster of athletes reads as a who’s who of GB wheelchair racing – any nerves when you arrived for your first training session?

I was very nervous before my first wheelchair racing session as I really didn’t know what to expect. I had done a lot of racing in my day wheelchair but had never had a go in a proper racing wheelchair and was unsure how I would manage that. It was much harder than I expected but after a while I go used to it and it started to feel more natural and comfortable.

What does a normal week’s training look like for you?

A normal week includes 3 track sessions, 2 gym sessions and a longer park session. I work full time as well so it can be hard to juggle. Thankfully I work close to the track, so I head straight there from work on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I do my gym sessions on Tuesday and Thursday morning at 6:30am before work and manage to squeeze a park session in on a Friday morning. I also still do parkrun on Saturday mornings in my day chair.

What is your favourite training session?

I don’t particularly like sprinting so any session with a bit of an endurance focus is always a good one. I really enjoy doing park sessions especially in the summer, we train in Richmond Park with a group of volunteer cyclists.

We have had a number of athletes join us from Weir Archer over the years, what had they told you about racing in Brighton?

I was told it was quite a hilly course, so I was a bit worried about that, but I didn’t find it too bad!

Were you surprised to break the course record in Brighton this year?

I was fairly confident I could break the course record; I’d had a good winter of training and was feeling really good but was unsure how the weather would play out. The forecast was for rain and strong winds which would have made it difficult but thankfully the rain held off and the wind was only strong at the end of the race.

What was your biggest standout from your day in Brighton?

The support along the course was incredible! As the wheelchair races start earlier than the masses there are often very few supporters out, but I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people lining the streets and it gave me a massive boost.

What is your racing plan for the rest of 2024? Do you have your races mapped out?

I’ve had a busy few years of racing, travelling to the USA, Germany and South Africa which has been amazing but this year I’ve decided to focus more on UK races and have a bit of rest from travelling. For the summer I’ll be focusing on track meets at Stoke Mandeville but in the Autumn, I have plans for a few more half marathons and maybe a couple of marathons.

One piece of advice you would give to anyone considering getting involved in the sport.

There are so many opportunities now for wheelchair users to take part in running events, whether it’s in a racing chair in the elite race, in your day chair in the masses or as part of a duo team. If you want to give it a go reach out to some local races and see if you can take part, the atmosphere and support are fantastic. If you want to get into competitive wheelchair racing then reach out to British Athletics and local athletics clubs and they can point you in the direction of some coaches and clubs you can join.

And finally, are you coming back to Brighton again next March – possibly lowering your course record!?

I think I can go faster so I’d definitely like to come back next year and see if I can lower the course record!