Albury wheelchair athlete Eliza Ault-Connell will contest seven marathons this year in a gruelling campaign towards Toyko 2020.
The Commonwealth Games silver medallist starts her domestic season in Canberra tomorrow after a bumper 2018, which included a win in the Sydney marathon and an Australian record over 800m.
“It was probably one of the best years, to be honest, of my whole racing career,” Ault-Connell said.
The 37-year-old almost died of meningococcal disease in 1997 and had both legs amputated above the knees just two days after diagnosis.
Ault-Connell debuted at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and then spent five years at the elite level, before taking the best part of a decade off to have her three children, with husband Kieran.
While the silver medal on the Gold Coast was the highlight of last year, Ault-Connell was also delighted her fourth placing in the New York marathon.
“You’re not only racing the athletes, you’re also racing the course,” she said.
“The hills, the cold, the challenges are definitely there, but it’s something that I absolutely thrived on.”
The Bowral product will return to New York as part of the World Marathon Majors, a six-race series also taking in Boston and Berlin.
Ault-Connell will spend nine weeks away from home this year, with the biggest events in London for the World Marathon Championships and the World Para-athletics Championships in Dubai.
The workload means Ault-Connell has been clocking up to 200kms a week, along with gym work and mobility sessions.
“I basically do three weeks hard and one week slightly easier,” she said.
“Typically after a marathon or a competition away, usually the following week, I’ll take it a bit easier and do only one session a day.”
Ault-Connell’s training takes in Albury’s Fallon Street bridge, where she can clock up to 50kms coming down.
“It’s probably scarier for the cars around me, they’re probably thinking, ‘what the heck is that’,” she laughed.
Ault-Connell also trains on the track for events ranging from 400m to 5000.
“I love any racing, I love the marathon, you’ve got 42.2k’s to sort the men from the boys and anything can happen,” she said.
A bumper year will help Ault-Connell as she targets a place at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
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