Kirkcaldy sports awards ambassador Derek Rae set for new 1500m challenge
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The highly respected athlete has won several times at the annual event, and been rightly lauded for his incredible commitment to competing at the highest level.
The sports council covers a geographical patch from Burntisland to Leven and Glenrothes, and the awards are open to anyone in the catchment area, or who are members of a club within it.
Individuals who live outwith the area can be nominated provided they are members of a club within the area - and provided they are not shortlisted for a similar award in their home area. Full details online at https://www.kcfsportscouncil.co.uk/
Derek, from Kirkcaldy, knows how much the awards, and being nominated means. A road smash 13 years changed his life forever and shaped a formidable career in para athletics.
Fife Athletic Club member Rae, 38, who post-accident has contested several races including the T46 marathon events at both the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro and the Covid-delayed edition in Tokyo five years later, was involved in a collision with a lorry on en route to a night shift as an on-shore rigger for BiFab. The orthopedic surgeon who did the work on my arm said that if he wasn’t as fit when I had my accident – Rae had previously run regularly and played football – then he probably wouldn’t be alive today.
Derek said: "I’d run the 2009 Edinburgh Marathon in three hours three minutes so I was a good club runner with Anster Haddies. I now run in the T46 para class which covers above elbow amputation or a similar disfigurement.
"I have nerve damage to my right arm. Although I have my arm, I only have 20% use of it so I have to run with the arm in a supportive sling. Effectively I don’t have any use of that arm when I’m running, but I wouldn’t be in this position if I didn’t have that accident all those years ago so I certainly wouldn’t change it. A lot of things are achievable if you put in the work. I’ve had a lot of support to get me to this point. It’s not until I do a presentation talk to a group that I realise what I’ve accomplished and overcome in the last 13 years.”
Rae is now preparing for a major adjustment by instead running competitively over the much shorter distance of 1500m.
The star, who recently returned to training after a lengthy spell out with an ankle injury, said: "After I ran in Tokyo in 2021 I received the news that organisers were taking the marathon out of the Paralympic programme for Paris in 2024 as they needed a minimum of 10 competitors for the race for it to be eligible to continue. I’m doing the 1500m now which is a stark contrast. It’s a lot more tactical.
“With a marathon, as much as you’re running against someone, you’re always there to support them. For instance, when we go past our water stations I always offer the person next to me a drink of my bottle before I throw it in the bin. On the track it’s the polar opposite of that.
"I’ve been happy to move away from the marathon. For me, the experience of Rio didn’t go to plan as I was unprepared for the conditions and I withdrew from that race at eight-and-a-half miles which was a sore one to take. It took me a long time to get over that setback. My body just couldn’t deal with it. I was given the chance to make that wrong right by running in Tokyo where I ran better than expected and finished in two hours 47 minutes.
Asked to rate his best ever marathon achievement, Rae – currently on a gruelling winter training programme under Fife AC coach Steve Doig in a bid to achieve the T46 1500m qualifying time for next summer’s Paralympics – cites the 2019 London Marathon where he ran a personal best time of 2hrs 27.08secs. That was around 36 minutes quicker than his best effort with two arms!
He added: "It sounds really strange but I knew from within the first 100m of that London Marathon run that it was going to be the day I produced my PB by almost six minutes.
"I had a really good build-up and preparation for that. I was away at training camps from the beginning of January to the race at the end of April, so I knew from the warm-up that my body was ready to run.
"Everything just fell into place, the miles ticked by. I got to all my checkpoints quite quickly and before I knew it I was going up the mall, my wife Susan was there at the finish line to greet me.
"It was an emotional coming together but it was all worth the hard work and effort we’d both put in to get to that point.