Glenn Hartrick could have never attached a racing bib to his chest again after he was struck by a car. The 36-year-old avid runner and triathlete from Jersey City, N.J. was training on his road bike in 2014 when a driver made an illegal U-turn and changed his life forever.
A broken back, nine cracked ribs, two collapsed lungs, a fractured jaw, a broken scapula and blood clots sent him into a spiraling into surgeries, rehabilitation and an entirely new lifestyle.
However, although paralyzed from the chest down, Hartrick cranks out just as many miles as he did before the accident.
In fact, he’s the first person to cross the legendary finish line of the New York City Marathon as a runner, handcyclist and on a racing chair.
His most recent big-time finish? The 2017 IRONMAN Florida, where he swam 2.4 miles, hand-cycled 112 miles and gutted through the 26.2-mile run course on a racing chair.
“I finished in 13 hours and 11 minutes, which is more than 30 minutes faster than the time I recorded the first time I did an Ironman as an able-bodied athlete,” Hartrick said.
The message is clear: The legs don’t have to work as long as the heart does.
Addicted to Miles
Hartrick grew up outside of Houston and mostly played team sports in his youth. After he earned a bachelors degree in accounting from the University of Houston and an MBA in management from Seton Hall, he moved to New York City, where’s he’s currently a treasurer for RailWorks Corporation.
Upon moving to the New York, he played in corporate softball and soccer leagues before he felt compelled to take on the five boroughs in the New York City Marathon.
“In 2006, I applied for the marathon and got selected. I ran in high school but had not really done anything since then,” he said. “I found a basic training plan on the internet, then went out and ran a 5K to see if I could even do that. I did it in just under 20 minutes.”
Hartrick ended up running his first New York City Marathon in a very respectable 4 hours and 2 minutes.
“I was just exhausted, but it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” he said. “When I crossed the finish line, I said, ‘Absolutely, never again.’ It was a one-time thing and I kind of put it on the back burner.”
A year later, he received an email from race organizers telling him it was time to register for the lottery again.
“I’m a sucker, so I registered again and I got in, and I’ve done it ever since,” Hartrick said.
That summer, some friends asked if he wanted to do a sprint triathlon on the Jersey Shore. He thought it sounded fun, so he bought a $100 bike on Craigslist and dipped his toes into the triathlon world, where he quickly got hooked on the sport and would often sign up for weekend races on back-to-back days because he loved it so much.
“My competitiveness from team sports really carried over to this,” Hartrick said. “I love that you can see yourself getting progressively better. There’s not a lot of things in life that give you that instantaneous feedback like sports does.”
In 2009, he became an official Ironman when he finished IRONMAN Wisconsin in 13 hours and 38 minutes. By 2012, he had been training so hard that his Ironman time dropped to 9 hours and 50 minutes.
“If there’s ever a record for the most time taken off by not being injured, or flat tires or that kind of stuff, I think I could have it,” he joked. “It goes to show, you get what you put out and you get what you put in.”
That same year, he landed on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine as part of “The Body Issue,” where he said, “My legs take me places, allow me to see things, and remove me from the stresses of everyday work and life.”
Then, his world was flipped upside down on June 12, 2014, 40 miles into a training ride in New Jersey, and those 175 triathlons he completed up to that point seemingly turned to a distant memory.
Still the Same Athlete
Hartrick spent 30 days in the hospital undergoing surgeries to repair his shattered body. Then he was transferred to the Kessler Rehabilitation Center for occupational and physical therapy.
“In the moment, it seems like the world’s against you and you don’t know where to go,” he said.
Three months into outpatient treatment, however, he spotted a handcycle and decided to take it for a spin in the facility’s parking lot.
Between that and a visit from the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), which provides those with physical challenges with the equipment they need to lead active and healthy lifestyles, Hartrick got his zest for life back.
He registered for the Rutgers Half Marathon just 10 months after his accident and received a grant from CAF for a handcycle.
Ever since then? Frankly, one might say it’s been hard to keep up with him. He’s taken first place in the Philadelphia and New Jersey marathons, but perhaps most special was his Central Park finish in his first New York City Marathon since that fateful June day.
“The NYC Marathon, first of all, there’s really nothing like it,” he said. “You have 50,000 friends out there racing with you and encouraging you. I get chills just thinking about it. It being my first big race back as a challenged athlete, and only being a year out from my accident, it was pretty cool. I had a lot of friends and family out there supporting me. And to be racing again where my marathon career started, it was incredibly special.”
As for his epic IRONMAN Florida experience, that’s high on the list, too.
“I trained for such a long time, since the accident really, because I knew I wanted to get back to doing an Ironman,” he said. “Before, it was more of a solo event, but now, because I need help getting into and out of the water and my race chair, it takes a village. That’s for sure.”
But really, that change as an athlete captures the spirit of the endurance sports community anyway.
“The triathlon community, running community and cycling community is just filled with amazing people who have amazing stories,” he said.
And Hartrick certainly falls into that category.
“I’m competing in a different way, but it’s the same way. It’s still the same race, and I’m still competing against the same people,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough to be able to do this; to still use my arms. As soon as the gun goes off, it doesn’t even cross my mind that I’m a challenged athlete.”
As for 2018, Hartrick plans to take on the New Jersey Marathon in April, and he has his sights set on qualifying for the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona. Then of course, the New York City Marathon loops around on his race calendar.
“That’s still number one on my list,” he said.
And why wouldn’t it be? Home is where his heart is.