Boals­burg woman sets sights on NYC Marathon and be­yond

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Good Life In Happy Valley - BY HOLLY RID­DLE

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.”

PHO­TOS BY ABBY DREY adrey@cen­tredaily.com

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.

ABBY DREY adrey@cen­tredaily.com

Michelle Wheeler’s 2018 First Place WC Open Women tro­phy sits proudly on her shelf.

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