Wheelchair athletes prepare for challenging Chicago Marathon

Wheelchair athletes prepare for challenging Chicago Marathon

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Marathon is less than five weeks away and tens of thousands of runners are training hard for the big day. This year, the number of wheelchair athletes has doubled, making the race for them faster and extremely tough.

"The course is very flat which makes it really tough because the pack of women stay together and it comes down to a final sprint at the end," says wheelchair athlete Tatyana McFadden.

Tatyana McFadden should know. She's one of the elite wheelchair athletes in the world. In April, McFadden won the Boston and Virgin London Marathons in the same week. Now, she's shooting for three in a row, but knows the Chicago Marathon will not be easy.

"It's about getting in the right position and testing the limits of other women and just pushing and racing your heart out," McFadden explains.

About 45,000 runners have signed up for the marathon, which will be held on Saturday, October 13. 60 wheelchair athletes will be participating and for more than half, it will be their first time competing.

To prepare, they're training 100 miles a week, working out at the gym, eating healthy, and staying hydrated. For the race, they'll drop the everyday wheelchair for a custom fitted racing wheelchair.

After losing the use of his legs, Bob Swamson says he had to find something else to keep his mind and body busy. This will be his first marathon and like the other athletes, he trains with his goal is do the 26.2 mile course in two hours or less.

All of them know that finishing will take good upper body strength.

"You're an athlete, you're a competitor. That never goes away," says Swamson. "It's not a switch you can turn on and off."

It takes skill, good cardio, and staying focused--even after the 20th mile. That's when they will rely on spectators who line the route each year.

Extra security precautions have been put in place for the Chicago Marathon in light of the bombings during the Boston Marathon. Runners say they're not worried and they hope supporters aren't either.

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