Gary Donald, 59, from South Woodford, vows to break record for oldest elite wheelchair competitor

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Mo Farah in the foreground with Gary Donald of South Woodford in the background at the 14-mile water station. Picture Venissa Amin Mo Farah in the foreground with Gary Donald of South Woodford in the background at the 14-mile water station. Picture Venissa Amin

A wheelchair racer from South Woodford says he hopes next year he will be the oldest competitor to have ever raced in the elite group of the London marathon.

Gary Donald, of Maybank Road in South Woodford, clocked a time of two hours and 46 minutes at Sunday’s event, but said he was slightly disappointed with the performance.

But the 59-year-old retired lecturer, who spent 31 years teaching engineering at Waltham Forest College, said he enjoyed last weekend’s event so much he will sign up again – at the age of 60.

“I’d be very proud, extremely proud if I was the oldest person in the elite wheelchairs to have done the marathon,” Mr Donald said.

“I’m really looking forward to it next year. I’m absolutely not going to miss it.”

The married father-of-two has used a wheelchair for around 22 years after his legs first seized up while playing badminton.

He later discovered he had a condition which meant oxygenated blood was not reaching the base of his spinal cord.

Having started racing in his regular wheelchair as part of the Valentines Park Run group in Ilford around 20 months ago, he is now a member of the Velocity Wheelchair Racing Club in Sutton, which loaned him a racing wheelchair.

This year’s event was his second London marathon and Mr Donlad believes next year he will be the oldest to have competed in his category.

He said: “A friend of mine did 21 marathons in a wheelchair but he stopped when he was 59."

His day was made even more memorable when a friend took a picture of Mo Farah, which by chance had Mr Donald in the background.

“The picture is extraordinary as it was taken by pure luck. No Photoshop-ing involved,” he said.

“She saw Mo coming and quickly grabbed her phone and snapped him but didn’t realise that she snapped me as well in the background. It was absolutely fantastic."

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