Boalsburg woman sets sights on NYC Marathon and beyond
Michelle Wheeler has been racing nearly her entire life. When her parents pushed her to try competitive wheelchair racing at the age of 9, she joined her athletic siblings in a variety of sports, practicing and competing in and around New Jersey.
After what Wheeler calls a brief “rebellion” from the sport, not wanting to put the time in to practice as a child, she found her way back to wheelchair racing when she became older and has been at it every since, successfully competing in (and winning) marathons around the country.
Earlier in the year, the Boalsburg woman compet- ed in the LA Marathon, even while facing an outof-place rib.
“Somehow I managed to pull together,” she said. “Near the end, I started having a lot of pain and I couldn’t even move my left side at all. The last four miles was just pushing with my right arm. ... It was brutal.”
On top of her life as an athlete, though, Wheeler is also a full-time mom and full-time student at Penn State, with a full-time job. She works with individuals with developmental disabilities, with an organization that provides services to support independence and break down social barriers. She’s completing her master’s degree in mental health and rehabilitation counseling. How does she do it all? “I think the biggest thing with all of that is just being able to organize my time so I can pretty much do everything and spend quality time with my daughter as well,” she said. “It’s hard. I feel like I haven’t quite mastered it. I’m still trying to figure it out. It’s not fun sometimes. I know that (racing is) something I enjoy doing, and I know my daughter supports me and wants me to do great. Knowing that I have people that look up to me pushes me to keep going and keep doing what I’m doing. I know after all the hard work, it’ll all pay off.”
The primary way Wheeler hopes it all pays off is with a trip to the Paralympic Games.
“My goal is to go to the Paralympics and I really want to do well in the marathon world. People are finally noticing me and seeing who I am at this point. I really want to get good and be at the top of my group, which I’m think-
ing I will be.”
Her advice to any ambitious 9-year-olds with similar goals?
“Do your best. Don’t give up, keep going, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.”
It’s a mantra she takes to heart, as she gets ready to face the TCS New York City Marathon.
“I know it’s going to be hard, I know it’s going to be cold,” she said. “But I’m still excited for it. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time.”
Michelle Wheeler powers up a hill in Boalsburg during her morning training session Tuesday. Hill training is a large part of Wheeler’s preparation for the Nov. 4 TCS New York City Marathon.
Medals from races that wheelchair marathoner Michelle Wheeler has competed in hang on a wall in her Boalsburg home.
Michelle Wheeler’s 2018 First Place WC Open Women trophy sits proudly on her shelf.