David Weir bounced back from his Rio Paralympics disappointment with a record-breaking seventh London Marathon victory before crediting the race with pulling him out of “a dark place” as he suffered with depression.
It had been five difficult years since Weir, 37, last triumphed in this race – his favourite event in his home city – with the six-time Paralympic champion failing to add to his gold medal tally at a dismal Rio 2016 Games that ended in acrimony with accusations of abuse and intentionally sabotaging races.
Furious at the lack of respect shown by certain members of British Athletics, Weir then announced his international retirement, confirming he would never again represent his country or race on the track and instead focus solely on road racing. It proved a smart decision.
Hugging the back wheel of his great rival Marcel Hug through the streets of London on Sunday, Weir opted not to pass the Swiss athlete until 200 metres remained, outsprinting him down the Mall to triumph in one hour 31 minutes six seconds.
“I’ve kept it to myself that I’ve been suffering with depression for the past seven months,” he said. “Training was the only thing that has kept me going.
“After Rio was when it started to be honest. Training was an avenue to channel my anger and frustrations when I was feeling down.
“I was in quite a dark place sometimes, so it was nice to get out in the park and channel that negative energy and turn it into a positive thing.”
The victory saw him pass Tanni Grey-Thompson’s six London Marathon victories to become the first person in the history of the race to win it seven times.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s been lingering for five years now [since his last victory in 2012] and it’s one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had.
“I was more relaxed this year. I felt there was a weight lifted off my shoulders [after Rio]. That was the best that I’ve felt in a London Marathon.
“Marcel made a break about 23 miles and broke the pack up amazingly. But I didn’t want to waste my effort pulling away from them.
“He was shouting at me to come to the front and I just said: ‘I can’t. I’m sorry, I’m not doing it. I need to win this race and the best way of doing that is to stay behind you.’”
Despite some suggestions that he could retire after completing an 18th consecutive London Marathon, Weir now appears likely to continue his road-racing career.
Last week he raised the possibility of extending his streak in his home town to 20 successive years, while also suggesting he could target marathons in Chicago and Tokyo.
Asked if his victory on Sunday had clarified his plans, he was non-committal, replying: “You’ll know next week.”