Visually impaired Noel Thatcher MBE has attended six Paralympic Games and won five gold medals, including breaking the 5000m world record at Sydney 2000 with a simply astounding 14:56. Despite ending his Paralympic career at Athens 2004 with fourth places at 5000m (15:16.59) and 10,000m (32:20.76) he is still an active and inspirational figure in the sport.
Noel's great passion now is parkrun but as he works most Saturdays as a busy physiotherapist he is most likely to be found at Harlow junior parkrun on Sunday mornings with his 6-year-old son, Soshin, where they have clocked up more than 50 runs together.
However, Noel still finds time to occasionally stretch his legs in competitive races with Harlow Running Club. In 2015 he ran 5:12 in the City of London Mile and was second in last year's Vitality Westminster Mile (5:18).
Just last Sunday (10 June) he was back on the podium, finishing second in the Why Not Run
CRY 5K at Farringtons School, Chislehurst, helping to raise awareness of Cardiac Risk in the Young
charity and supporting The Ben Daniels Memorial Fund.
Noel has recently been featured as a parkrun Pacer in a series of stories about international athletes, Olympians, Paralympians and coaches who have embraced parkrun and are happy to share their experiences and offer some advice, whatever standard of runner we may be.
Awarded the MBE in 1997 for ‘Services to Athletics for Disabled People’, Noel carried the flag for GB at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Athens, 2004 and he was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.
His mantra for a long and successful running career is to keep it simple and fun with plenty of variety in training. He is also an advocate of strength training for runners and is keen to stress the need for good nutrition and plenty of rest between sessions.
We like the look of his favourite session when he was at his peak just before Sydney 2000. It consists of running 1600m; 1200m; 800m and 400m at increasing pace, with two minutes rest between each run. Noel reckons this could be just the ticket for learning how to handle the increasingly difficult final stages of a 5k run and could be your passport to a parkrun PB!
Read Noel's parkrun Pacer article here