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Chicago Marathon Wheelchair Racers Train in Tandem

By Jackie Kostek | September 23, 2013 8:02am
Chicago Marathon Wheelchair Racers
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DNAinfo/Jackie Kostek

CHICAGO— You could call them the wolf pack.

Adam Finney, Geoff Kent and Bob Swanson are amateur wheelchair racers prepping for next month's Chicago Marathon — which will play host to its largest-ever wheelchair division, with 69 registered competitors, up from 30 in 2012.

After getting injured in their 20s, the three found each other through relatives and acquaintances.

Now, the three spend countless hours a week together training for races.

"We actually have a garage now in the city where we have three treadmills lined up side by side," said Kent, 34, who was injured seven years ago in a skiing accident.  "We just battle in this garage in this dark alley."

"Garage wars," quipped Swanson, a resident of suburban Round Lake who's competing in his first Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13.

Finney, a southwest suburban native who now lives in Bronzeville, is taking on his second Chicago Marathon, while Kent — also referred to as "Coach" — is the seasoned veteran in the group, with five Chicago Marathons and numerous other races under his belt.

Kent, a native of suburban Wheaton who now lives in the Gold Coast, has also found a way to monetize his hard work. The nonprofit organization he founded to help research possible cures for spinal cord injures, Spinal Cord Injury Sucks, has raised more than $600,000 in the past six years.

"The three of us," pointing to Finney and Swanson, "we're not really the face of spinal cord injury. We're active, we have our arms, we're all athletes. We were young, strong guys before our injuries. For every one of us, there are probably three, four, five others who can't do the Chicago Marathon."

Kent said the main fundraiser for the nonprofit is linked to the marathon. Runners — able-bodied and wheelers — raise money for the organization while training for the race. In Kent's first race six years ago, the group had seven runners. This year, it has 50 runners.

"The growth has been tremendous," Kent said.

Watch the video for more on Finney, Kent and Swanson's training and those high-tech racing chairs.