FOR the last 18 months Carcoar wheelchair ace Kurt Fearnley has been staring at a map of the London Paralympic Games marathon course, but now the time has almost arrived for him to tackle the course for real rather than in his mind.
Fearnley arrived with the Australian Paralympic team at the athletes’ village on Monday and was looking forward to the Games’ opening ceremony today (AEST).
“Day one in the village. Awesome,” Fearnley exclaimed on Twitter. “Great set up and love running into old friends from every corner. Fourth Games is about to start and [I’m] real excited.”
But the excitement and the thrill of arriving in London will soon give way to a focused and competitive Fearnley.
He will contest four events - the 800 metres, 1500m, 5000m and men’s marathon - but it is the latter which the CSU graduate is most intent on winning.
If he can do so, he will be the first man in the history of the Paralympic Games to win three consecutive marathon gold medals.
“The marathon is the one I most want. I’ve been dreaming about it and every time I sit down I am thinking of a different part of the course and how I can use it to my advantage,” Fearnley recently told ABC Radio.
“If I have anything to say about it, and my body and my head and my desire have anything to say about it, that will be the one for me.”
The marathon course which Fearnley will race on September 9 is identical to the one used in the London Olympic Games.
Designed to take competitors past many of London’s most famous landmarks such as the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Westminster Bridge, it is one which will challenge Fearnley.
He will open with one short lap of just over 3.5 kilometres and then do three laps of a circuit just shy of 13km.
“It has a lot of turns and a couple of cobblestones, it’s enough to keep your mind busy as you put your body through a fairly uncomfortable situation,” Fearnley, a man who already boasts 28 marathon victories, said of the Paralympic course.
“It is a one-off course created for the Olympics and the Paralympics and it’s terrific for spectators.
“It is a tight course with three laps around 13 kilometres and like you saw in the Olympic marathon the crowd were four and five deep, it is one of the best courses for spectators.”
While Fearnley will not have the chance to take in the course before he races, it is one that he already knows well.
And he should given he has been studying the route for so long.
“I’ve had the course up on the wall in my bedroom for about 18 months now I think. I’ve looked at it every morning and I am already dreaming about the last right-hand turn I take to push down The Mall,” he said.
Fearnley will have two days after his last event in the stadium to prepare for the marathon and while he will be hoping to already have a gold medal to his credit, the bid for London Paralympic marathon glory will see him push his body to its limits.
And then beyond.