By Scott Mills
After just hours of finishing the 2017 Lisbon Half-Marathon, coach Jenny Archer MBE and the academy were already focusing on their next challenge- preparing for the 2017 season by spending a week training amongst steep hills, high winds and heat alongside the occasional downpour in the south coast of Portugal.
Whilst a team of 12 senior athletes, four cyclists and several coaches and assistants took the short trip down from the Portuguese capital, the academy were honoured to be joined by Portugal’s Joao Correia.
Not only was it a privilege to be training with such a phenomenal athlete, but Correia is also the man who works tirelessly hard behind the scenes to ensure that the Lisbon Half-Marathon’s elite wheelchair race is one of the best in the world.
Alongside a small team of which most are his family, Correia not only manages to fit in his own training during this time but he also looks after the athletes from organising every specific racing detail to ensuring they are well looked after from the minute they arrive right the way through to when the race ends.
For many years, David Weir CBE, Jenny Archer MBE and a number of the academy’s top senior athletes have competed in the Lisbon Half and every year we have been taken back by the races excellent organisation and the friendly atmosphere and help that Correia and his team have given us.
So just before the team had departed the Don Pedro Hotel in Lisbon, the athletes and coaches gathered in a private room to present this inspirational athlete with the ‘Lifetime Member of the Weir Archer Academy’ award in recognition of the amazing job he has done for many years.
Also taking part in the teams warm weather training camp, were Great Britain’s Simon Lawson and Canada’s Josh Cassidy, another two outstanding and phenomenally hard working athletes that would also help to increase the intensity and take training up to another level.
Over the course of the week the team trained twice a day with one road session in the morning, a track session in the evening and usually a gym session thrown in, in between.
As the heat, the cross winds and the toughness of training increased as the week progressed, Mickey Bushell MBE and the other athletes were constantly reminded about the importance of taking enough water to keep hydrated, especially being put through their paces by elite cyclist Sue Moran.
Despite 26 mile stretches of constant hills that made mount Everest look small in the mornings and highly intense speed-work sessions on the track in the evening, athletes Mo Jomni, Jabari Knight, David Weir, Jamie Carter, Simon Lawson, Josh Cassidy, JohnBoy Smith, Mickey Bushell and Joao Correia all remained in high spirits determined to improve and get ready for a tough season ahead.
Whether it be at the ‘Dutch’ or at the Copacabana restaurant, the team would always remain positive no matter how tired they felt often laughing and joking with each other- a real testament of the great family atmosphere that head coach Jenny Archer had created over many years.
It was also great to have cyclists Pete Capell, Gary Carter, Kim McLean and Sue Moran dedicating their own time to assist the training sessions out in Portugal, helping to maintain a high level and push the athletes through any mental barriers they would face.
Having raced in Lisbon, the academy’s Justin Levene also dedicated some of his time to drive around with Archer and the athletes whilst out training in the hills to not only ensure their safety but also provide any spare equipment if needed.
Club thrower Abbie Hunnisett also popped in with coach Mark to have a chat with everyone whilst they also prepare themselves for the season ahead and unlike the stretch of road between the track and the hotel that seemed never-ending, the new season is now in sight.
The track season is only weeks away as is the London Marathon, but thanks to the fine tuning in the Algarve, the athletes will be more ready than ever to make it another successful year.