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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Q&A: Boston Marathon wheelchair division no match for alum

It came down to the finish line for Shirley Reilly.

The former UA student and former wheelchair racing team member won the women’s wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon on Monday by one second — about the length of a wheelchair — over Japan’s Wakako Tsuchida.

She was a member of the UA wheelchair racing team for about five years, according to Reilly. She finished in one hour, 37 minutes and 36 seconds, just edging Tsuchida, the 2011 winner. Reilly said she sprinted to the finish line against a different competitor to win second place. This year, Reilly was sprinting for first.

“It’s kind of a shock I guess,” Reilly said. “I’ve never won it before and this is my sixth time doing it and I feel very fortunate and lucky and kind of in shock.”

Reilly had never beat Tsuchida in a race, and set a personal best in her sixth attempt of the Boston Marathon. She said she has been racing for about 15 years.

This is the second major marathon that Reilly has won. In 2006, she finished in first place in the Los Angeles Marathon.

The Anchorage, Alaska, native was born prematurely and is paralyzed from the waist down. She has been a member of Team USA for two Paralympics Games (2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing) and participated in three of the longest wheelchair events — the women’s 1,500m T54, 5000m T54 and the marathon T54, according to Reilly is also a member of the 2012 Paralympics Track and Field National Team.

The Daily Wildcat caught up with Reilly and asked her about winning America’s most famous marathon.

Daily Wildcat: What has your experience been like with marathons?
Shirley Reilly: I love doing marathons. Training for it I don’t enjoy so much. Once you finish a marathon you think, “I’ve done 26 miles.” Not very many people can say that. It’s fun. I enjoy it. I like the competitiveness and that’s why I keep doing it.

Last year, (Tsuchida) actually set a course record. Last year she beat me by six minutes. It actually came down to me and another girl for second and third. And I actually out-sprinted her for second. That’s how I got second last year. Wakaka (Tsuchida) was six minutes ahead of me last year. This year I was able to stay up with her.

What does it mean for you to be able to win it?

I’m kind of in shock. The whole town, everyone gets into it. It’s such a big deal.

What was going through your mind when you saw Tsuchida was right there with you at the finish?

She did a lot of the pulling. I was hoping I had enough energy to outsprint her. She was getting kind of tired. And I waited for the right moment to come around her and hoped I had a faster finish. And it turned out well for me.

Tell us about the close finish.

When I crossed that finish line I kind of burst into tears. I was overjoyed and kind of in shock. It was fun.

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