Tatyana McFadden races toward triple crown

By Caryn Maconi | Oct. 11, 2013, 8 a.m. (ET)
Tatyana McFadden
Tatyana McFadden won the 2013 Boston Marathon and the London Marathon in the same week.
Tatyana McFadden
Tatyana McFadden and Prince Harry at the finish line of the 2013 London Marathon.

Tatyana McFadden, three-time Paralympic champion and 10-time Paralympic medalist in wheelchair racing, is set to compete in the Chicago Marathon this Sunday. The marathon will be McFadden’s third this year, as she claimed titles at both the Boston Marathon and the London Marathon within the same week in April.

A victory on Sunday would mark McFadden’s third straight win at the Chicago Marathon and her fourth there in five years.  Should she win on Sunday, McFadden will also become the first racer ever to win three world marathon majors in a single year.

The standout racer will have her fair share of competition, as she will be going head-to-head with three-time Chicago Marathon winner Amanda McGrory (Savoy, Ill.) and 2012 Boston Marathon winner Shirley Reilly (Tucson, Ariz.), who won the women's marathon at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

“It’s going to be very tough competition, especially because the course is so flat,” McFadden said. “It’s usually a very close finish, so it’s going to come down to a final sprint in the end.”

While a third straight marathon title is her ultimate goal, McFadden said she will be happy with her performance as long as she races to the best of her ability.

“If I race my 100 percent and get a good time for myself and give it my all, that’s all I can really expect,” McFadden, 24, said. “There are so many things that could happen – I could get a flat, the weather could have an effect if it rains – so there are a lot of things that could affect placement. A flat course and a sunny day is perfect, but whatever conditions happen on Sunday, I just have to make the best of it.”

McFadden, a native of Clarksville, Md., also plans to compete on Nov. 3 at the ING New York City Marathon. The course in New York will be more technically difficult, but McFadden said she feels ready to take on the challenge.

“I’m really excited, it’s a completely different course,” McFadden said. “There’s more climbing and more descending, so you have to use strategies that are a lot different compared to Chicago.”

In addition to competing for a title in New York, McFadden will be captaining Team USA Endurance, a fundraising program benefitting the United States Olympic Committee.

As team captain, McFadden will serve as an ambassador and spokesperson for the program and its mission.

“Because the [U.S. Olympic Committee] is a nonprofit organization, we are not funded by the government,” McFadden said. “In order for athletes to continue to do what they do, it takes a lot of money … for equipment, lodging and traveling, all of those expenses.”

As an official charity partner for the marathon, Team USA Endurance will provide volunteer runners with training tips and advice, exclusive Team USA gear and the opportunity to meet and receive support from Olympians and Paralympians such as McFadden. In exchange, runners commit to raising money for Team USA at one of three fundraising levels ranging from $5,000-$25,000. 

Outside of her success at the 26.2-mile distance, McFadden also made history earlier this summer when she became the first female to earn six of six titles at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships.

Wheelchair racing is not McFadden’s only sport, either. Friend and fellow Paralympian Alana Nichols, who has competed in two Paralympic Games in wheelchair basketball and one in alpine skiing, introduced McFadden to Nordic skiing just last year.

She seems to have picked it up pretty quickly. 

In fact, in just the third Nordic race of her career, McFadden earned a title at the 2013 U.S. Adaptive Nordic Skiing Nationals in Midway, Utah, in January. Now, she is a member of the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing National Team and is a hopeful to compete at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in March.

After the New York City Marathon, McFadden plans to transition to training for skiing full-time.

If she qualifies to compete in Sochi, it will be McFadden’s fourth Paralympic Games and her first-ever Winter Games. Her first goal is to make the Sochi squad, and if possible, she said she would like to compete in all six cross-country and biathlon events.

When McFadden first became involved in sports, she was simply trying to stay healthy. Now, she is a true competitor. She said she wants to help others overcome challenges and achieve their dreams as well, whether in Paralympic sports or otherwise.

“I love to compete. You get to travel and experience different cultures, and you’re also a role model,” McFadden said. “Not necessarily just to people in wheelchairs, but for others too – just showing that no matter what struggles you go through, we all go through them. It’s just looking at how you can achieve it and how you can overcome it.”