By George, I Think He's Got It
Five-time Paralympic medalist Josh George is pushing for a win at the ING NYC Marathon
Those familiar with wheelchair athlete Josh George know of his accomplishments as a Paralympic athlete, his tenacious drive as a marathoner, and his unique and powerful public speaking presence.
The 29-year-old, five-time Paralympic medalist has had a challenging race season plagued with timing and mechanical problems that he could not seem to overcome. But, the struggles of the season seem to have started working out for George with his 800m win at the IPC World Championships, his first-place finish at the Tri Cities Marathon and his Bank of America Chicago Marathon top three finish. One could almost conclude, by George, I think he’s got it.
With the bulk of the season behind him, George is preparing for the final and most challenging race when he pushes through the 2013 ING NYC Marathon Nov. 3.
“I’m really trying to peak for New York,” George says. “It’s my favorite race of the season. It’s also the most challenging course of the year. You’re dead at the end, but you feel like you’ve accomplished something monumental. It’s an exciting weekend for me.”
George spent the summer training and reevaluating his racing strategies on the University of Illinois campus under the watchful eye of coach Adam Bleakney. Together they looked over George’s success and failures throughout the season to help forge a training regimen to help him be more comfortable in the chair.
“I’ve spent a lot of time working on the mental side of racing,” George says. “This year my focus is different leading into races and during races. It’s paid off in France and was the first time I felt complete control over everything in as many years. I’m hoping that feeling continues through the fall season.”
While Boston and London were admittedly bad races for George, there were some good parts of the races he used to help critique his performance going into future marathons.
“I was in the process of changing my style of pushing,” says George. “Those early races in the season really didn’t go all to hot, but I started finding my form throughout the summer and then really was able to do well in France. I’m feeling pretty good going into the fall marathon season.”
But George has never been one to throw in the towel. Among his many accomplishments as an athlete he is also a survivor. At the age of 4, George fell from the window of a 12-story building, injuring his spinal cord and changing his life forever.
Dubbed a “living miracle” by doctors, it was the support of his parents who helped guide him through recovery and promote his “can do” attitude. George was introduced to the world of accessible sports, and quickly became involved in all manner of activities.
Wheelchair basketball and track and field soon became his favorite, and since then he has gone on to win gold and silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics in the 100 and 800m races and has three Chicago Marathon titles to his credit, just to name a few of his accomplishments.
George completed this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon in the top-three, breaking the tape at 1:30:38, along with Australian racer Kurt Fearnley, giving marathon winner Ernst van Dyk a bit of scare who finished just a tenth of a second ahead of George.
“I felt a lot more comfort this year,” says George. “I’m comfortable with my chair and more comfortable with my stroke then I ever have in my career.”
George hopes to turn that comfort into wins, and will have another chance to test his abilities during the 2013 ING NYC Marathon. Unlike Chicago’s flat course, New York is hilly and considered one of the hardest and challenging of the major marathons. And that’s just what George is hoping will help lead him to victory.
“I’m a lightweight,” says George. “I’m more of a climber during a race and with all the hills in the NYC course, as a climber, that’s where you try to make your move.”
Fast Five with Josh George:
S`NS: Are you a sprinter right out of the gate or do you pace yourself?
George: It depends on the course. For NYC you have no choice. You have to sprint out of the gate or else your race is over. Most of the time, I can go either way. I don’t mind easing up into races and finishing hard. But if I have to start hard, I’m ready to do that as well.
S`NS: Many in the main stream see wheelchair athletes as inspirational or heroic. As an elite athlete and public speaker, how do you feel about this label?
George: Personally I find heroic a little bit of a reach. I don’t see myself as that at all. It’s not really for me to say whether I’m inspirational or not. If people are inspired by what I do or by my stories, then more power to them. Everyone’s searching for something to give him or her that spark or motivation. If that happens to be something I say or do for that person, then fantastic.
S`NS: You’re an elite marathon athlete, Paralympian, and public speaker. What’s Josh’s life off the track and stage?
George: Outside of athletics I work for a small start up company called Intelliwheels. I do public relations and marketing for them.
S`NS: Talk about your public speaking engagements:
George: I love being able to go out and talk to people and share ideas. I love to learn what others are thinking and how they respond to what I have to say. I was recently in Brazil discussing adaptability and universal design and adaptive athletics. It was really neat talking with other cutlers and backgrounds. It’s really rewarding to add some positive thought to a person or change how they approach different situations.
S`NS: Share a training tip with our readers:
George: It’s better to pass out in a workout than to pass out in a race.
Josh George racing during the 2013 IPC World Championships: