Romanchuk marathon flight

Wheelchair racer Daniel Romanchuk is shown on his flight Sunday from Chicago to Boston. Romanchuk won the Chicago Marathon on Sunday and finished second in the Boston Marathon on Monday.

Watch our video story on the wheelchair star

CHICAGO — Daniel Romanchuk had barely broken the tape to win the men’s wheelchair division of Sunday’s Chicago Marathon when talk of the next day began. As a race official spoke with him, he smiled and politely declined bottles of water and Gatorade.

“I am all ready to go,” he said. “I’ve got to catch two flights.”

Romanchuk is never one for big celebrations, but on Sunday, he barely had time to even think about the race he just won. After all, he had a 3:30 a.m. wakeup call for the Boston Marathon the next day.

Because of COVID-19, this year’s five remaining marathon majors were condensed to a six-week span beginning with the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 26 and ending with the New York Marathon on Nov. 7.

That included an eight-day stretch where he raced in the London, Chicago, and Boston marathons. While the world’s runners would never think of completing so many marathons in such a short time, that’s not the case for wheelchair racers. Like his University of Illinois teammate Tatyana McFadden, who also won in Chicago and finished second in Boston this week, Romanchuk is competing in all six.

“I don’t think this was on anyone’s schedule, but as the races were getting postponed, it was like, ‘The fall is going to be quite busy,’” he said. “Then, as race dates were confirmed, it was like, ‘OK, it’s going to be really busy.’

“We didn’t know how I was going to react to it. I hadn’t done much training to simulate these environments, really, where you’re doing back-to-back marathons. It certainly was interesting.”

After a TV interview and a drug test Sunday, Romanchuk rushed back to the hotel, packed his equipment and headed off to O’Hare Airport, hydrating as much as he could. After his original flight was canceled earlier that day, he had a quick layover in New York before landing in Boston and arriving at his hotel after 8 p.m. He put his chair together and finally was able to rest his eyes around 10 p.m.

Romanchuk wound up finishing second to Swiss racer Marcel Hug, who has had a dominant two-month span stretching back to the Paralympics racing in a newly designed, pricey and highly publicized chair.

Romanchuk said his biggest surprise, though, was that he didn’t feel overly tired.

“It wasn’t too taxing,” he said. “It was a little less than I expected it to be, and overall, I had really no issues. I felt pretty good afterward. Of course I was tired, but I was kind of expecting to feel a lot worse.”

The weekend was such a blur that Romanchuk had little concept of his time for Sunday’s race. On Wednesday, he spoke about how slow and relaxed the pace was, attributing that to the fact that the athletes were saving themselves for Boston.

In fact, he realized after speaking with his mother, who acts as a manager of sorts, that he actually finished over a minute faster than he had at the race two years earlier, when he dusted the competition to win by over 3 minutes.

“I very well could have been told” about the time, he said with a laugh, “but I think this is probably the first time I’m actually processing that information.”

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