BECOMING a two-time Paralympian was never the life Derek Rae envisaged for himself. 

But, eleven years after a motorbike accident nearly killed the Kirkcaldy man, Rae is heading to Tokyo as part of the 44-strong athletics squad for the Paralympics with the ambition of really making his presence felt. 

And ever the optimist, Rae admits that his accident in June 2010, in which a collision with an articulated refrigerator truck left him with extensive injuries, including severe nerve damage in his right arm, has, in actual fact, borne many positives. 

“All of this feels so surreal. Even just saying I’m a full-time athlete is very surreal never mind a double Paralympian,” the 35-year-old says. 

“The day of my accident was probably the worst day of not only my life but also my wife, Susan’s life, and my friends and family.  

“But if it wasn’t for that, I’d never be in the position I am today. Good comes from bad, I firmly believe that.” 

Rae will compete in the marathon, which takes place on the last day of the Games, and he is hopeful his experience at Tokyo 2020 will be considerably different from his first experience as a Paralympian, which saw him withdraw mid-race in Rio five years ago. 

Despite being called up to the British team just a few weeks prior to the 2016 Paralympics, that performance was, he admits, a bitter blow and one that took some time to recover from.  

But it is an ordeal he believes will stand him in good stead this time around. 

“At the time, what happened in Rio was a very hard pill to swallow and it took me a long time to get over it. For a while, I saw myself as a real failure. 

“For everyone else, standing on the start line was a huge achievement because that’s no easy task. 

“But for me, my confidence took a real blow,” he says. 

“Now though, I wouldn’t change anything about what happened in Rio because it’s made me the person I am today. I learnt a lot from it. 

“When I came home from Rio, yes I had regrets about the way I’d run but it was my first Paralympic Games whereas now, I’ve got a smarter head and know to not let the occasion get to me. I know I need to just run my own race; I know what my game-plan is, now I just need to stick to it.” 

Just as in the Olympic Games, the Paralympic marathon will be held in Sapporo in an attempt to avoid the sweltering heat and humidity of Japan’s capital. 

But, as we all saw in the Olympic marathon just a few weeks ago, the conditions in Sapporo are not going to be much gentler on the athletes and Rae is well aware that one of his most ferocious opponents will be the conditions. 

It is something he is as prepared as he can be but no amount of preparation is likely to make the race easy. 

“Even a blind man could see the conditions for the Olympic marathon were very, very tough so there’s no doubt it will be hard,” he says.  

“But the conditions will be the same for everyone – I was in that position in Rio and I made the mistake of running at a pace my body wasn’t able to handle so I’ve got that experience.  

“I’ve also raced in Japan before and I’ve been using a heat chamber at home to try to replicate the conditions. So I feel like I’ve done everything I can to be ready, it’s now just going to be down to who runs well on the day - and who runs smart. 

“I don’t think the race will necessarily be won in a very fast time, that’s what happened in the Olympic marathon.  

“I’m not a Paralympic debutant anymore and I’ve got an older and wiser head this time and so I need to use that experience I’ve gathered.” 

In the years since Rio, Rae has established himself as a real force to be reckoned with.  

Three podium finishes at the London Marathon since 2017, including a victory in 2019, have ensured he is well qualified to be classed as a medal contender at Tokyo 2020. And while he is reluctant to heap pressure upon himself with any grand predictions, he admits the thought of becoming a Paralympic medallist does creep into his head now and again. 

“I’m not going to say thoughts of standing on the podium never enter my head because I wouldn’t be an ambitious athlete if I didn’t ever think about that,” he says.  

“But I have to focus on running the race I want to run and the results will look after themselves.  

“All the hard work is for a reason though, and that reason is to step on the podium so if I did that, that would be a dream come true.  

“I’m not going to lie and say my mind hasn’t drifted to that but I know what I need to focus on.”