Paralyzed triathlete to make history at TCS New York City Marathon
- Glenn Hartrick is an avid marathoner and triathlete and has completed 175 races in a six-year span, becoming an IRONMAN All World Athlete in two consecutive years and gracing the cover of Runner's World magazine for their body issue along the way.
- After completing the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN North American Championship in May of 2014, Hartrick was out on a routine training bike ride when a car made an illegal U-turn and hit him, instantly paralyzing him from the chest down.
- At the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon, Hartrick will make history as the first person to ever finish the race in the open, handcycle, and push rim divisions.
Glenn Hartrick was at the peak of his career as a marathoner and triathlete. He had completed 175 races in a six-year span, becoming an IRONMAN All World Athlete in two consecutive years and gracing the cover of Runner's World magazine for their body issue along the way.
But all of that changed in June of 2014.Hartrick had just competed at the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN North American Championship in The Woodlands, Texas and was out on a routine training bike ride when a car made an illegal U-turn and hit him.
He was instantly paralyzed from the chest down.
Hartrick spent 30 days in the hospital and two months at the Kessler Rehab Institute healing nine broken ribs, two collapsed lungs, a broken jaw, broken scapula, and blood clots in both of his legs.
"I had the mentality of the overused cliche 'life is a marathon, not a sprint,' and I really took that to heart," Hartrick said. "It seemed like an insurmountable mountain to climb at the moment and then all of a sudden I'm making progress [in my recovery], and that gave me motivation, just like it did when I ran my first marathons. I really tried to use that mentality that I had as an athlete to get me better both mentally and physically."
But even before Hartrick completed his inpatient rehabilitation and returned home, he was focused on finding his way back across finish lines.
"I said 'I'm sitting in the hospital right now but I'm going to come back and I'm going to do the 2015 New York City Marathon right where my journey started,'" Hartrick said. "I knew that was going to be my recovery and help me prove to myself that I'm back and I'm still me."There was a handcycle in the outpatient unit at the hospital, and as soon as he had the necessary strength, Hartrick was doing laps down in the parking lot. Soon enough, he was ready to return home and resume training on his own.
Sixteen months after the accident, Hartrick finished the TCS New York City Marathon in 1:37, good for 10th overall in the handcycle category. He went on to finish third overall in the handcycle category at both the Philadelphia and Los Angeles Marathons later that year.
The following year, he was the fifth overall and first American finisher in the handcycle category at the New York City Marathon. In 2017, he finished first at both the Philadelphia and New Jersey Marathons before making his IRONMAN return. He finished first in the physically challenged open division at the 2017 IRONMAN Florida with a time of 13:11:07.
"When I did my first IRONMAN, I did it in 13 hours and 48 minutes," Hartrick said. "When I came back and did it again as a physically challenged athlete for the first time, I was faster than when I first did it as an able-bodied athlete."
Hartrick dreamed of attending the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii since he first became a competitive triathlete. He came close in 2012, finishing less than two minutes too late at the IRONMAN U.S. Championship in New York City, but he never managed to qualify before his accident. Hartrick was selected to attend the IRONMAN World Championship this year and was the sixth overall and third American in his division to cross the finish line.
"There are a lot of things in life that don't meet expectations because they're hyped up so much, but I can tell you this met every single expectation that I ever had," Hartrick said. "It was harder, it was faster, and it was hotter, but it was more rewarding than I ever could have imagined."
Now, Hartrick is quickly shifting gears to the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon November 4, where he will race in the pushchair category for the first time."There is not a better day in New York than marathon Sunday," Hartrick said. "It's the best marathon in the world for a reason. It was my first marathon back in 2006, and it was my first comeback race back in 2015. Now to be able to do it in a racing chair knowing how far I've come, I really think I'm helping to prove that anything is possible."
Not only will the race be a personal milestone for Hartrick, but he will also find his way into the history books when he crosses the iconic finish line. He will become the first person to ever finish the race in the open, handcycle, and push rim divisions.
"It's an exclusive club that I belong to, and I don't encourage it for everybody else. If they can just stick to running I think they'll be better off," Hartrick joked. "But it gives me some credibility when I'm speaking to kid with paralysis, or I go back to Mt. Sinai or Kessler and can speak to some newly-injured individuals or kids. I can say 'four years ago, I was you. I was sitting in a hospital bed, and this was what I was faced with. Of course, your life is turned upside-down, but it gets better, and it gets easier, and look, this is what you can do.'
"To me, that's the most important piece of being able to cross the finish line in all three categories."