Eden Rainbow-Cooper had great success last year with her achievements including 3rd at the London Marathon and British Athletics Championships and winning the women’s wheelchair race at the Great North Run, London’s Big Half and Great Manchester Run 10k. 2022 also saw Eden make her Commonwealth Games debut for Team England in Birmingham, where she came away with the Silver medal in the T53/54 Marathon. For Eden’s training, she is a member of Weir Archer Academy, and her upcoming events include the Dubai Marathon this month, and later in the year, she will be competing at the Boston and London Marathons and will be targeting the World Championships. Answering our questions, Eden told us about her successful 2022, competing at the Commonwealth Games for Team England and training at Weir Archer Academy.
Last year, you competed in the London Marathon, coming 3rd place, how did you stay focused during the race and what was it like to be part of?
To stay focused during a race I look straight ahead of me and lock on, when I am in the zone and racing I don’t hear anything I just remain focused on what I have to do and knowing that I have done the training. It was so incredible to be part of the race with so many amazing athletes and I learnt so much about marathon tactics from it.
You won the women’s wheelchair race at the Great North Run in September, how did it feel finishing the race in 1st place?
I had no expectations going into the Great North Run, it was my first time doing the course and I just wanted to see if I could get a personal best so when it got to the last mile and I was in the top two adrenaline kicked in and I pushed as hard as I could. It was really great to have so many women from the UK taking part.
Can you tell us about racing at London’s Big Half, where you finished in 1st place, and what did you enjoy most about competing there?
I had previously come in 2nd and 3rd place so this year I was really excited to see what would happen. I was also going out for a personal best as I was yet to get under the one-hour mark for my half marathon. I had stayed next to some of the men for the whole race and it really pushed me as I was having to work alone when they were able to work together so when it got to the final corner of the race I just went for it to see if I could beat them and I managed to beat my teammate from Weir Archer. It was a really fun experience and finding out that I had matched the course record at the end just gave me even more drive to go back in 2023 and beat it!
In summer 2022, you made your Commonwealth Games debut for Team England in Birmingham, how did you find the experience representing England at a major international multi-sport event and competing in front of a home crowd?
It was really special to compete in a home Games for my first major senior championship. I was able to have my family there and it meant a lot to be there with David Weir, who is my mentor and coach. Having people shout my name throughout the course was really nice and it kept me going up those tough hills.
You won Silver in the Women’s T53/54 Marathon, how was it winning and collecting your medal?
I went into the race not knowing what would happen and so when I realised that I had won a Silver medal I was overwhelmed with joy and pride. Also, to be racing with such a strong field of women was a really great experience for my second marathon. Getting my medal was incredible, there were so many people in the crowd that were clapping and cheering, it is a feeling I want to experience again.
What was it like staying in the Commonwealth village and do you have any stand-out highlights from being part of Team England in Birmingham?
Staying in the Commonwealth village was amazing, there were so many different teams and having para athletes and abled-bodied athletes was really cool too. It was great to be there with other Team England athletes that I have known since I first started wheelchair racing, we all had a lot of fun and there were a lot of good memories from the experience. A stand-out highlight would be watching my teammate’s medal ceremony in the Alexander Stadium, the atmosphere in the stadium was amazing, it meant a lot watching them be awarded for all the hard work I have seen them put in over the years.
In June, you won Bronze in the Women’s 400m Wheelchair Race at the British Athletics Championships, how was this?
I was really happy with a Bronze at the British Champs, I am a mid to long distance racer so to have gone into a sprint event and to still come away with a medal, I was over the moon.
How did you find your time competing at the Great Manchester Run 10k, where you came 1st?
I really enjoyed competing in Manchester, I had never raced there before and it is always fun to go on a new course. It was also my first big win in the UK in 2022 so it felt great to be able to prove the hard work was paying off.
Can you tell us about some of the other competitions you’ve raced at and what are some of your favourite highlights from your wheelchair racing career so far?
My favourite highlight would be racing at the Commonwealth Games and London Marathon. However, competing at the Paralympic School Games in Natal Brazil when I was just 14 has to be in the top three. I came away with three Golds in that competition and it was my first time travelling without my parents, I made many good friends and good memories from that trip.
Do you remember how you felt being selected to represent Team England and Team GB for the first time and how is it winning medals for your nation/country?
I remember being told late in the evening, the phone woke me up and it didn’t really sink in until a few minutes after the call, I was bouncing off the walls then and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I knew that selection was coming up but I really thought it was a long shot for getting picked, so when I was told that I would be going for the marathon it was the best moment. It fills me with so much pride to be able to represent my country and know that I am doing everyone else proud too.
How different do you find racing at shorter distances opposed to longer distances and what do you enjoy about competing in both?
I love both competing on track and on the road, when I first started the sport I was adamant I would be a sprinter, the adrenaline rush from 30 seconds of pushing is incredible, but I love the tactics of a long race. For me, the track has the fast pace all out that I really enjoy, you never know what is going to happen until you’re over the line and I am lucky to be able to race on track with girls that are a similar speed to me. However, the road I feel is the ultimate test of how far I can push myself both mentally and physically, I love the challenge.
What is a typical training day for you and can you tell us about being part of Weir Archer Academy?
Typically for me, I will wake up early to go to the gym where I will stretch and do my weights session. I will then go to work and after work I will either drive to the track to train at the Weir Archer Academy or I will go out on the road for a long push.
Being part of Weir Archer and having the unmatched knowledge of David Weir and Jenny Archer is amazing. You don’t get that anywhere else, we have so many athletes of different ages, genders and abilities but everyone will always get the same level of effort from the coaches. Weir Archer is like a family.
Where does your love of wheelchair racing come from and how did you start?
I started wheelchair racing when my senior school took me to a programme called Playground to Podium. I tried wheelchair racing there and never looked back, I had never thought of doing sport before but when I got in the chair I felt free as I could go quicker than I had been before.
How do you like to spend your time away from your wheelchair racing career?
I work full time as a Digital Marketing Apprentice so when I am not racing then I am working. I love both my careers and want to succeed in them both.
Do you have any competitions coming up that you can tell us about or that you are targeting?
I have the Dubai Marathon coming up, which will be a great opportunity to see where I am at and what I need to improve on and then I have the Boston and London Marathons. I am targeting selection for the World Championships this year and hoping that I will get the times to go.
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