2011 is a very important year for me because I'm becoming a full-time athlete for the first time. I have competed in numerous sports over the years ranging from gymnastics to ice sledge hockey - I was at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino with Paralympics GB - but from next year I'll be a full-time runner focused on London 2012.
At the moment I work part-time for Nottingham City Council, who have been very helpful in allowing me to do flexible hours to fit in with training and competition. Previously I worked full-time and squeezed sport into evenings and weekends so it has been a gradual shift.
Becoming a full-time athlete will make a big difference because I'll be able to rest properly and be more careful about what I eat. That's very important when I'm running 90 miles a week.
It may seem unusual to run competitively in the 200m and the marathon but I'm used to combining sprint and endurance work. I'm fortunate that my background training in gymnastics has given me good balance and agility, which really helps to prevent injuries. Of course the training is very specific – it might be a 45 minute session on the track for the 200m compared to two or three hours for the marathon. I'm very thorough in my preparation and recovery – plenty of pasta the night before a race, fruit and protein afterwards.
When I first started training for marathon running I tried to get advice from as many experts as possible and read books by the likes of Haile Gebreselassie and Paula Radcliffe. I have developed my own running style and I'm supported by a fantastic team including my coach Liz Yelling and several others. In October I broke the world record for any amputee runner with 2:42.52 in Chicago and I'm looking to improve that time next year.
I'll be running the Virgin London Marathon again in April, which is always a great experience. If I have pacers to help I hope to set a good time on home soil and build my confidence ahead of London 2012. I also expect to run either the Berlin or Chicago Marathon next autumn. Which one I choose may depend on the weather as wet roads are not conducive to a fast time.
The BT Paralympic World Cup in May is another highlight of the year, as is the Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace. At those events I will be able to measure myself against the best of the competition from around the world just a year ahead of the Paralympic Games.
All in all I'm really looking forward to the challenge of being a full-time athlete. Of course it's only possible with support from sponsors. I expect to be away from home for about 80 nights next year so the free room nights that Holiday Inn has given me are very helpful and will save me money. Any athlete training or competing away from home wants to be able to focus on their job and be confident that they will be comfortable in their hotel – it's one less thing to worry about. Right, time to get back to training. I leave for New Zealand on 4 January and there's a lot of road and track to be covered before then.
Richard Whitehead is a congenital double amputee, Paralympian. He is the current world record holder for leg amputees in both the half and Olympic marathon distances. He is also the first ever leg amputee to complete the marathon in under three hours. To find out more click here. Holiday Inn is the Official Hotel Provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. For more details click here.