By Lynn Rutherford | Nov. 02, 2013, 9:05 p.m. (ET)
(L-R back row) Team USA Endurance runners Sheryl Shade, Nicole Cocozza, Gene Derkack and Steven Shipowitz with Team USA Endurance captain and three-time Paralympic champion Tatyana McFadden and 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor at the Jacob Javits Center on Nov. 1, 2013 in New York.

Team USA Endurance runners Jimmy Jenson and Jennifer Davis
gather at the Jacob Javits Centeron Nov. 1, 2013 in New York.

NEW YORK -- When members of Team USA Endurance gathered at New York’s Jacob Javits Center on Friday to share racing tips for the 2013 ING New York City Marathon, team captain Tatyana McFadden made it clear the 26.2-mile course is far from a jaunt in Central Park.

“I feel like if you conquer this marathon, you can conquer any marathon in the world,” McFadden said. “It’s tough because there are lots of climbs, lots of down hills. But the support from New Yorkers is unbelievable, so no matter if it is your first or hundredth marathon, it’s always a great race.”

The 24-year-old McFadden has never backed away from a challenge. Born in Russia with spina bifida and paralyzed from the waist down, she was adopted from a St. Petersburg orphanage by Deborah McFadden at age 6. In 2006, she and Deborah fought in court to win the right for Tatyana to compete at high school track meets in her home state of Maryland.

Originally a sprinter, McFadden entered the Chicago Marathon in 2009 and scored a surprise win. This year’s New York City Marathon, held Sunday, marks an attempt to add the Big Apple crown to her wins earlier this year in Boston, London and Chicago. Crossing the finish line first would make her the only marathoner to gain the “Grand Slam” of all four major races. It will also cap an outstanding 2013 campaign: McFadden won six gold medals at the Paralympic track world championships in July.

“It’s a really important day on Sunday, but no matter what happens, I have had such an incredible year,” McFadden said at the rally.

She isn’t going it alone. In addition to Deborah, who cheerfully calls herself her daughter’s “momager,” McFadden has the 22 members of Team USA Endurance, a new fundraising platform that gives runners a chance to not only support, but also be a part of Team USA.

Donors at the gold, silver and bronze levels gain advice and support from U.S. Olympians and Paralympians, as well as exclusive Olympic apparel and equipment; health and training tips from the United States Olympic Committee’s expert staff; and more. Deena Kastor, the 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist, joined McFadden at the rally to deliver valuable racing and training tips.

“Team USA Endurance is another team behind the team,” McFadden said. “It’s a great support for the USOC and U.S. Paralympics, a non-profit organization.”

This New York City Marathon is the inaugural event for Team USA Endurance, created by the USOC’s development arm to raise funds for its athletes and awareness of its status as a non-profit organization.

“The USOC relies solely on philanthropic and corporate support; it does not get funding from the government,” Gene Derkack, the USOC’s director of leadership & capital gifts, said. Derkack is also one of the 22 members of Team USA Endurance running Sunday's marathon.

“All of the money we raise goes directly to athlete support, to help them achieve the mission of winning an Olympic or Paralympic medal,” Derkack continued. “We are one of the most efficient and effective organizations when it comes to our dollars; we have an 8 percent expense ratio. The funds go to services for our athletes, including the Olympic Training Centers in Chula Vista, Lake Placid and Colorado Springs.”

McFadden is only too aware of what it costs her to compete, not only in track events but also in Nordic skiing, a sport she took up last year.

“A wheelchair costs about $2,500. Each wheel is $1,000. Each tire is $150,” she said. “So in order for us to be the best of the best, we need the support. That’s why Team USA Endurance is extremely important. I am honored to be running with them.”

Team USA Endurance isn’t designed just for big donors. Anyone can do their part through its website, TeamUSA.org/endurance.

“Every dollar you want to give to support Team USA Endurance really counts,” Derkack said. “It’s very easy to go online and make a donation to support Team USA.”

To help reach this year’s goal of $250,000, Derkack enlisted the support of Sheryl Shade of Shade Global, a New York-based sports agency that has represented Olympic gold-medal winning gymnasts including Shawn Johnson and Paul Hamm.

“Some of the smaller sports don’t get the kind of funding that others may,” Shade said. “That includes summer and winter sports, everything from luge and bobsled, to weightlifting. They don’t get as much television time or media attention.”

Shade knows this firsthand: one of her athletes is Nick Goepper, one of the country’s leading slopestyle skier who hopes to qualify for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

“His sport doesn’t get a lot of funding, so we’re hoping Team USA Endurance helps give it awareness,” she said. “I work with corporate America and some of our Olympic sponsors and I’m asking them, ‘Our athletes support your brands, can you come up with a bit of money to them?’ And they’re coming through for us, so I’m pretty excited about that.”

Shade, who ran her last New York City Marathon 19 years ago, is putting her own body on the line, running as a member of Team USA Endurance.

“I am excited and terrified all at the same time,” she said. “If I survive the race this year, I’m hoping we can make this an annual event. That’s the plan.”

Whatever happens with McFadden’s Grand Slam quest on Sunday, she plans to be back for more next year.

“I know I’ve given it 110 percent and that’s all I can really ask of myself,” she said.

Lynn Rutherford is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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