Daniel Romanchuk celebrates his first place win in the Wheelchair Division during the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon on Nov. 4, 2018 in Central Park.
The streets of New York City were without the thousands of marathoners otherwise expected to be racing there this weekend.
Racing instead alone, virtually, on a course through central Illinois, U.S. Paralympian Daniel Romanchuk completed 26.2 miles in 1 hour, 13 minutes and 57 seconds on Thursday, in the process setting a world-best time for a men’s wheelchair marathon.
Originally scheduled for Saturday, the New York City Marathon was adapted into a virtual format due to COVID-19. Because the Virtual New York City Marathon wasn’t an official in-person race, Romanchuk’s time is not eligible for the world record. Switzerlands’s Marcel Hug had the previous fastest time, clocking in at 1:18:04 at the 2017 Boston Marathon, although his was also not eligible for the world record.
Heinz Frei of Switzerland holds the official world record with his time of 1:20:14 in 1999.
“Yesterday’s virtual @nycmarathon started out with a little taste of Central Park at the start line!” Romanchuk posted to Instagram on Friday, alongside a slideshow of his race under sunny blue skies.
“After that I had to use my imagination, as the harvested corn and soybean fields took over...
“Thought for the day: Normally my sister, who’s an ER nurse in NYC, is there to give me an ‘annoying’ big sister hug and kiss at the finish line. I never knew how much I’d miss that. Thanks to @nyrr and all the other race organizations who are giving us ways to stay motivated and healthy during these times. I can't wait to get that hug and kiss in person again next year!”
Romanchuk has made rapid gains in the years since his Paralympic debut in 2016 in Rio, where competed in five events on the track.
In 2018 he broke through with his first major marathon win in Chicago, and he’s only continued from there. Later that year, at age 20, he became the youngest wheelchair winner at New York City, and the first American man to win.
The Mount Airy, Maryland, native, now 22, is now the preeminent men’s wheelchair marathoner, having swept Boston, London, Chicago and New York City in 2019. With his victory at the 2019 Chicago Marathon he also secured his spot at the Paralympic Games Tokyo, which will now be held in 2021. He’s also found success on the track, having won the 800- and 1,500-meter races at the 2019 world championships.