Racing against the odds
Hand cyclist Nadine McNeil will race in the marathon on Sunday. Her son, Tyler, will make his debut. (Tiffany L. Clark)
By Amanda Magnus
Special to amNewYork
When Nadine McNeil runs the New York City Marathon on Sunday, her biggest challenge wont be her paralyzed right side, or the fact that she uses a hand cycle to complete the 26.2-mile course. Her biggest worry is her son.
Im more nervous for him than I am for myself, said McNeil, a resident of the Bronx.
This will be McNeils fourth marathon in the past two years, but her 18-year-old son Tyler, who has autism will be running in his first marathon, with a guide.
Im hoping that Im not too distracted when I get out there, McNeil said. Tyler will be out there and I wont know where he is.
Paralyzed on the right side from a childhood stroke, McNeil uses a hand cycle to compete in marathons, but she has upper body limitations. Because she has limited use of her right arm, she powers herself mostly with her left. She said she tapes her right arm to the handle to keep herself balanced.
McNeil is a member of the Achilles Track Club, an international nonprofit organization for disabled runners of all levels.McNeil started as a spectator mom while her son was a part of Achilles Kids. In 2006, Tyler was selected to compete in a 5k race in Los Angeles. McNeil went with him and also competed in the event, on foot. She couldnt do any distances further than five miles, though, because of her weak right leg.
After the race, McNeil met with Dick Traum, the Achilles Track Club founder, and Karen Lewis, director of the childrens program, to thank them for giving her son the chance to compete in Los Angeles. Traum recommended that she try a marathon while using a hand cycle.
Never in a million years, ever, would I have thought that I could compete in a 26.2-mile course, McNeil said.
But in late August 2006, she climbed into a hand cycle for the first time. Three months later, McNeil was at the starting line of her first marathon.
Sometimes other people have to believe in you before you believe in yourself, McNeil said.