2018 United Airlines NYC Half: Celebrating 5 Years of Professional Wheelchair Racing
In 2014, the NYC Half became the first major half-marathon in the world to add a professional wheelchair division with significant prize money.
The 2018 United Airlines NYC Half on Sunday, March 18, will mark the fifth year of the division’s inclusion. To commemorate the milestone, this year’s professional wheelchair field will include five past champions and be represented by five different countries—a massive growth in representation over such a short period of time.
Here’s a look back at how the professional wheelchair races have unfolded since their beginning:
Canada’s Diane Roy and the United States’ Josh George became the inaugural champions of the professional wheelchair division, which featured athletes from just their two countries. Despite the windy conditions, George managed to easily take first place on the men’s side in 50:37. Roy battled to the finish in the women’s race with the United States’ Susannah Scaroni, taking the tape in 59:25, just 16 seconds of Scaroni, which to date is the smallest margin of victory in the event’s women’s wheelchair field.
Two new countries were added to the field in South Africa and Switzerland, and it just so happened that those countries found themselves crossing the finish line first. South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk and Switzerland’s Manuela Schär won their races in 48:54 and 54:38, respectively, with both of them bettering the race’s top times from the year prior.
Both Tatyana McFadden of the United States and Ernst van Dyk smashed the previous event records on the way to their first and second titles in the event. Van Dyk captured the top prize in 47:37 and McFadden took her title in 52:25.
The professional division was such a success that the NYRR Times Square Youth Run began to include a youth wheelchair racing heat for the first time. This event, now known as Rising New York Road Runners at the United Airlines NYC Half, will mark its third running in 2018.
In a thrilling sprint to the finish, van Dyk won his record third consecutive NYC Half, finishing just five-tenths of a second ahead of American Daniel Romanchuk, the narrowest margin of victory in the history of the men’s wheelchair race. Scaroni won her first-ever NYRR race on the women’s side after having built up an advantage of two minutes and 29 seconds, the largest margin of victory in NYC Half history across all divisions.
This year’s wheelchair division is expected to be the deepest ever, with 10 Paralympians, five countries represented, and five past champions returning (George, van Dyk, Schär, McFadden, and Scaroni). George, van Dyk, and Romanchuk are poised for a three-horse race on the men’s side, while the American trio of McFadden, Scaroni, and Amanda McGrory will challenge defending TCS New York City Marathon champion Schär on the women’s side.