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Josh Cassidy during the 2013 Tunnel 2K. Photo courtesy Port of Tyne.

Rough Roads

Online Exclusive posted Monday, September 30, 2013 - 9:27am

The New York Marathon remains a challenge for Josh Cassidy, the Canadian champion in wheelchair racing

Josh Cassidy has been the Canadian champion in wheelchair racing for the past five years. He won the London Marathon in 2010 and the Boston Marathon in 2012 with a world record-breaking time. But when it comes to the New York Marathon, “it’s arguably the toughest marathon I think there is out there.”

Cassidy was born with neuroblastoma cancer in the spine and abdomen, which left his legs partially paralyzed. Since a child he had participated in sports and when he got to high school he took up wheelchair track and field. By chance, Cassidy went to a restaurant where one of the national team coaches was eating. The coach lent Cassidy his first racing chair and he fell in love with the sport.

That was when he was 16-years-old and now, 12 years later, he is one of the most accomplished wheelchair racers in the world with over 75 medals. This year will be Cassidy’s seventh time competing in New York and it hasn’t been too easy in the past.

“My very first year I crashed twice. It’s a tough course, it’s bumpy, the roads are a little rough,” Cassidy says. “There’s lots of hills in it too and those bridges are tough to climb.”

Josh Cassidy during the 2013 Tunnel 2K. Photo courtesy Port of Tyne.

Cassidy says his biggest challenge is maintaining momentum throughout a course full of large climbs. Because he is only partially paralyzed, he still has some feeling, movement and muscle mass in his legs. This adds dead weight to the chair that can slow him down going uphill.

Despite this, each year Cassidy does a bit better than the year before and focuses on that in his training.

“I care so much about the New York race and I love it so much and it’s such a difficult challenge … I haven’t been really super happy with any of the [races] in New York yet, for whatever reason,” he says. “When there is a course you want to do well at, or there is one that you haven’t won, that definitely helps in the motivation for training and to prepare for it.”

Cassidy follows one rule when it comes to training, “You’re only going to get out of any race what you put into it in the training leading up.” He spends six days a week training and pre-visualizing any scenario that could happen in the race.

In the minutes leading up to the start, you may see Cassidy preparing with his headphones on, but he isn’t listening to music.

“It’s just something that I would do to kind of allow myself to shut everything else out and get my head in the space that I want and think about the last things that I want to think about in the race,” he says.

Training has become a part of who Cassidy is, and it doesn’t stop with physical activity. He has also been eating clean for almost 12 years.

“In London, in the Paralympics, yeah after all of that I actually went to McDonalds and even ordered it and I took like three bites and I ended up looking at my plate, I couldn’t. Mentally I had just been in such an intense place,” Cassidy says.

In spite of a few rough races in New York, Cassidy is ready to approach the starting line on Nov. 3.

“I’m really excited about New York as always,” he says. “The organizers just do a fabulous job.”

Nationally, the ING New York City Marathon will be presented on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes+ from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET. The race will also be available via WatchESPN for those who have video subscriptions from affiliated providers. Locally, New Yorkers can watch the race on ABC7 or from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. or via WatchABC on mobile devices. Additionally, a national highlights show will air from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on ABC.

For the latest Marathon news, updates, features, and media information, please visit NYRR’s online media room at or follow us on Twitter @prowheeler and @nyrrnews.

See Cassidy tackle the 2013 Tunnel 2K


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