New York City

Scaroni ready for one last push

When Susannah Scaroni took the winner’s tape at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October, the significance of that victory was twofold.

It was her first Abbott World Marathon Majors win, a feat to be celebrated in any circumstance.

But it was also a staging point in a journey of recovery that began in a back brace on a hospital bed some 13 months prior.

The 31-year-old was shunted from behind by a car as she made her way to training in Champaign, the home of the University of Illinois’ famed wheelchair sports program.

The impact broke her back, fracturing her T8 vertebrae. It did not break her spirit.

“When I was in the hospital, I was thinking all the time, ‘Oh, my gosh, what's going to happen to my back’. It was scary. And after Tokyo (where she won Paralympic gold in the 5,000m) I was so disappointed not to get to race in Chicago and New York, because I just really wanted to see what I could do. But ultimately, I am so thankful I lived that none of that matters. I'm alive. That overpowered those negative mental experiences I had.”

Months of rehab followed, that began with her partner Jacob performing tasks for her as simple as making her coffee while she remained totally immobile. It was that kind of dedication that convinced her he was the one, and the pair married in September this year.

“It's kind of why he became my fiancé. I didn't feel like I lost any of my integrity or dignity. He just was so happy to help and I felt like I was still me.”

Scaroni made a full recovery, and has enjoyed a 2022 AbbottWMM campaign that has delivered her to the brink of taking the Series XIV women’s wheelchair title. She has finished second in Boston, third in Berlin, second in London and earned that maiden win in Chicago.

She is the first to admit this has been a year where opportunities have come her way. Reigning champion Manuela Schär was denied the chance to race in London and Chicago due to illness, as was Madison de Rozario, the 2021 New York champion, and her stablemate Tatyana McFadden is in the early stages of her own comeback following the return of a blood-clotting issue that scuppered her year.

They will all be on the start line on Sunday, with Schär requiring a win and the additional eight bonus points on offer to the first athlete past the 20km mark to stand the best chance of overhauling Scaroni’s current lead in the Series. It’s the strongest field Scaroni has had to contend with so far.

But luck, as the Roman philosopher Seneca said, is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Scaroni has been prepared at every turn to capitalize on her form, fitness and ability. That has translated into second place in Boston, third in Berlin, second in London and that maiden victory in Chicago.

“It would be a huge honor (to win the series). I remember when we were added into the series and that adoption has just meant a lot for our sport, because it brings it a level up which then brings the exposure up.

“I was a little kid once who had adult wheelchair racers as role models. And to have a bigger stage for that and to get to be a huge part of that is the most important role I could ever have. So to me, it's just more important that the platform is big, we have these highly prestigious marathons and to come home first would be just an honor.”