Anuradha Cooray says the love and support he has had from the people of Aylesbury will be driving him on in this Sunday’s Olympic marathon.
As first revealed in The Bucks Herald, the popular Vale of Aylesbury Athletics Club star has been running an astonishing 17 miles from Wycombe to work at Greggs bakery in Aylesbury every day in the build-up to what the Sri Lankan calls his ‘home Olympics’.
Speaking from the Olympic Village, where he has met a host of stars such as Jamaican sprint legend Asafa Powell, USA sprinter Tyson Gay and tennis champion Serena Williams, the former soldier said well-wishers have given him the drive to keep pounding the streets.
He said: “It’s so special to be involved and even though this is my second Olympics, this to me is a home Games, because I live here, work here and have been training here.
“It’s hard work doing 115 miles of training every week, but the people in Aylesbury come up to me and say ‘Cooray I saw you in The Bucks Herald, you’re amazing, good luck, we are supporting you’ and it really gives me a boost to keep going, it really means a lot to me.”
One person that does mean a lot to the runner is his Vale of Aylesbury coach, Nick Taylor.
“He is the one that has been behind me and kept pushing me. He is the reason I am here today,” he said.
As one of very few athletes at the Games who are not full-time professionals, Cooray is at a distinct disadvantage to many of his rivals for Sunday’s race (which starts at 11am).
But, the proud dad says he will be trying his hardest to do Aylesbury and his young family proud with the main aim to run a personal best time.
“Training has stopped now and I have just been doing laps of the Village, which only takes a few minutes, to keep myself ticking over. There are lots of laps and turns every 300 metres, which is a lot more demanding and not good for a marathon, so I have been practising for that,” he added.
“It’s going to be hard, I am not a full-time athlete so I can only do my best. But I am aiming for around 2hrs 15mins, although with all the turns I think the overall times will be slower.”
Dining with the world’s best athletes everyday has been ‘exciting’ for Cooray, but watching Usain Bolt win the 100m is his favourite moment so far.
Greggs in Aylesbury has put up ‘Good Luck Cooray!’ posters ahead of the marathon. Let’s hope they are commissioning a special pasty in his honour this time next week.