In extraordinary circumstances, marathon runner Michael Roeger and his pacesetter Jaryd Clifford have smashed world records at Athletics Australia's Tokyo Qualifying Marathon in Sydney on Sunday, April 25.
Roeger, from Langhorne Creek, had not raced in a marathon since the Houston Marathon in January 2020, while his pacesetter Clifford, from Victoria, had not even planned on finishing the course.
Yet Roeger shaved 40 seconds off his personal best and set a fourth consecutive marathon world record in the T46 (arm amputee) class, with a time of 2:18.52.
This is despite leg cramps taking hold during the last six kilometres of the race.
"Now I've got 2:18 next to my name, and that's giving me loads of confidence in these last few months of training (before the Paralympics)," he said.
It is not the first world record he has broken this year; he broke his own 2018 record for the T46 5000m by six seconds at the Sydney Track Classic, with a time of 14.00.25.
The marathon was the last that the 32-year-old will compete in before the Tokyo Paralympic Games in August.
"I'll now reset and respect the distance and then do the Gold Coast Half Marathon, and then it's all roads to Tokyo," he said.
Tokyo will be Roeger's fourth Paralympics, but he will be aiming to win his first gold medal there.
"Hopefully I'll stand on top of the podium and sing the national anthem proudly," he said.
Meanwhile, Clifford demolished the world record set by Morocco's El Amin Chentouf in 2015, crossing the line at the Tokyo Qualifying Marathon with a time of 2:19.08 in the T12 class for vision impaired athletes.
In what was his maiden marathon, he originally only set out to get Roeger as far and fast as possible in his role as pacesetter.
"I think he (Roeger) asked me at 15km how many laps I had left in me, and I think I said I had two; then I had one more, and then another," Clifford said.
"I feel a bit silly upon reflection, but I think psychologically all I was doing throughout the race was focus on Roegs who is going for the gold medal at the Paralympics in Tokyo.
"I can't even remember the last time I did a long run."
Clifford will be going for gold in the 1500m and 5000m T12 events at the Paralympics, despite his marathon time being much higher than the Paralympic qualification standard.
Roeger and Clifford's coach Philo Saunders said the pair had been in "gold medal position" before the 2020 Paralympics were canned, so it was enjoyable to see them at their best in time for the rescheduled Paralympics.
"Roegs couldn't run for four months (due to injuries) and we didn't know if he'd be at the same level again, so this marathon was massive for us," Saunders said.
"This run is something that has given him confidence to win that gold medal, his first Paralympic gold medal at the Games."
Saunders also ran as a pacesetter for Roeger at the qualifier, after two others pulled out due to injury.
"Jaryd and I stepped up to try and get him as far as we could - the way it played out was amazing," he said.
"These are two of the best athletes Australia has ever seen and they're going to be standing on top of the podium with gold medals for Australia."