Illini racer sets course record

By Josh Birnbaum

Wheelchair track team member Amanda McGrory won the women’s wheelchair division of the Chicago Marathon on Sunday and set a course record time of 1 hour, 45 minutes, 27 seconds.

“Amanda ran really well, and I expected her to,” head coach Adam Bleakney said. “Her fitness level is so high, too, so she can just keep hammering away for 26 miles and not drop too much off in her pace.”

McGrory and teammate Jessica Galli were the only wheelchair women in the race. Galli, a sprinter, turned in a time of 2:01:23.

Although Sunday’s heat caused the marathon organizers to shut down the race early and probably hindered many runners, Galli, as well as the rest of the team, prefers to push in the heat.

“When it’s too cold your body cramps up and your muscles don’t move as well,” Galli said. “In the heat I feel really relaxed and really loose. I like to run like that.”

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Despite a good race from the team’s two women, the men struggled with equipment failures. In all, the men suffered three flat tires and a broken frame. Only two of the four racing men were able to finish the marathon.

“Equipment failure is part of the sport,” said Bleakney, whose chair broke after hitting a bump too fast in the first mile of the race. “You hate for that to happen, especially having trained, having put in so much time on the physical side getting your body ready.”

Josh George, the team’s volunteer assistant coach who won the wheelchair race last year, suffered two flat tires in the first half of the race. He fixed his first flat and refilled his tire with a CO2 cartridge he had strapped to his racing chair, but the second flat he could not fix.

“That’s the most demeaning feeling in the world: when you’re going two miles per hour because you have a flat tire and people still think you’re racing,” George said. “They have no idea what wheelchair racing is; they still think you’re racing and they’re cheering you on.”

The men who did finish, Kevin Hosea and Chris Taylor, had times of 2:09:40 and 2:18:11, respectively, but they were not completely satisfied with their times. Hosea, who is still recovering from a wrist injury, also had a flat tire.

“I didn’t do as well as I wanted,” Hosea said. “I was hoping to break two hours … I’m glad I at least finished.”

Taylor didn’t feel good during the race and has been trying to do better recently.

“It was a really frustrating race,” Taylor said. “I’m not really sure why my pushing is not as good as it has been or where I feel it should be … It was not a good day for most of us.”

The Chicago Marathon is the last marathon of the year for most of the team – but not for McGrory and George, who plan to race in this year’s New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

“New York City brings in the biggest field of wheelchair racers of any race in the U.S., maybe anywhere in the world,” said McGrory, who won the women’s division last year. “They’re bringing in every winner from the past seven years … the competition is amazing.”