Inspirational athlete aims to make NYC Marathon history in racing wheelchair

NEW YORK (WABC) -- One man is no stranger the TCS New York City Marathon, but this weekend's race will push him to new limits.

Glenn Hartrick's first New York Marathon was a life changer -- he was hooked. His weekends filled up with races and took him to the IronMan finish line. Anything was possible.

Then a terrible accident on the New Jersey Palisades seemed to be a tragic end to his sports life. But it actually put Hartrick on a trajectory that could land him in the history books on Marathon Sunday.

Hartrick clocked a 4:02 NYC Marathon in 2006 on his first try. The following year, he ran 30 minutes quicker, eventually racing to a sub 3-hour marathon personal record.The fast runner was featured in "The Body Issue" of Runner's World.

Hartrck was quoted saying, "My legs take me places.... Running has defined who I am." He was even chosen for the cover of that issue.

Next, he turned to triathlons by adding swimming and biking.

"I was out on a training bike ride one morning, just south of the George Washington Bridge, when a car made an illegal U-turn and hit me and I was instantly paralyzed from the chest down," Hartrick said.

RELATED: Inspirational athlete returns to competition on handcycle after devastating accident

At 32 years old, an invincible ironman was forced to face limits.

"I was in the best shape of my life and all of a sudden I couldn't put socks and shoes on, I couldn't brush my teeth, I couldn't fix my hair, I couldn't take a shower," he said.

He was physically different, but Hartrick's determination was unchanged.

From his hospital bed, less than two months after his accident, he applied for a handcycle through the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Within six months of his accident, he raced at 13.1 mile Rutgers Half Marathon. He also has finished two New York City Marathons in his handcycle.

But this Sunday, he shifts again -- into a racing wheelchair to make Marathon history.

"I'll be the first athlete to cross the iconic New York City Marathon finish line as a runner, a hand-cycle athlete and in the racing wheelchair," Hartrick said.

He starts at the same spot, covers the same course, but with a different perspective.

"One of the other challenges you have in a racing wheelchair is steering. So there's steering and braking, braking can be a challenge unlike the handcycle," Hartrick said.

Controlling the chair will be a factor for him to compete in this division. But slowing down really isn't his speed.

Just last month he completed IRONMAN KONA and an NYC finish line will help him with his vision that anything is possible.

"My motto is bad things happen to people, we gotta pick ourselves up and live life through the windshield and not the rear-view mirror so I am pretty excited for Marathon Sunday," Hartrick said.

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