When Amanda McGrory was paralyzed by Transverse Myelitis—a rare neuroimmune disease—at the age of five, her parents wanted to encourage her to continue an active lifestyle. So they sent Amanda to a sleepaway camp for kids with physical disabilities, where she found her true passion for wheelchair racing and basketball.
Dribbling her way to a career in racing
In 2004, Amanda put her racing career on hold and headed to the University of Illinois with a scholarship to play wheelchair basketball. Two years later, one of her coaches came to her with a “bribe” that refocused her attention. Thinking that McGrory had potential as a long distance athlete, the coach got her into an invite only elite track camp on the contingency that she would participate in an upcoming marathon in Denver. After finishing third in her first marathon, McGrory was instantly hooked and now competes in six to eight marathons every year.
Winning big in Chicago
It wasn’t long after that first marathon that McGrory made her way to Chicago. Now a three-time Bank of America Chicago Marathon winner in the wheelchair division, McGrory will race for the eighth time this year. She is excited to again take part due to the flat nature and familiarity of the course, as well as the prestige that comes with it.
“For the wheelchair division, the races within the majors tend to be our best competition,” she said. “If you want to really challenge yourself and push yourself against the best in the world, the majors are the place to do it and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is no exception.”
A Champaign, IL resident, McGrory is much more familiar with Chicago than some of the other marathon locations. When participating in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, McGrory often looks up and catches a street sign or storefront and realizes she’s shopped there or eaten there, and really enjoys seeing familiar sights along the race route.
Going for the gold in Rio
An Olympic gold medalist in Beijing, McGrory also competed in this year’s Paralympic Games in Rio in addition to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. “Coming into the games I’m pushing speeds that I’ve never pushed in my entire career, so I’m feeling really, really strong,” she said.
McGrory will arrive in Chicago this October with new Olympic medal titles following the games in Rio, and use that momentum all the way through to the finish line.