Wheelchair races back for 2011 Cleveland Marathon

CLEVELAND - John Squires has been in a few marathons before, but there's one coming up that really excites him. He's looking forward to the Cleveland Marathon on May 15.

Squires, and Akron native, was in an accident when he was 15 years old. He was swimming at Portage Lakes with a friend, when a split-second decision not to jump from a rope hanging over the water changed his life forever. He broke his neck when he landed in the water and has been a paraplegic ever since.

But make no mistake, this lifelong athlete hasn't stopped moving and doing the sports he loves. Wheelchair or not. In fact, his accident has motivated him to train to be a full-blown marathon competitor in several wheelchair events.

It costs thousands of dollars to get handicapped equipment for people who want to be part of athletic events. Squires appreciates his sponsors and the grants he's gotten to get his race bike.

He was also motivated enough after training long and hard for other marathons to meet with and talk to the Cleveland Marathon officials to get the wheelchair races back to Cleveland. It's been several years since the wheelchair races were part of the Cleveland Marathon.

Squires said it took a while, but thanks to marathon Executive Director,Jack Staff the races are back this year. Staff told me bringing back the races wasn't an easy choice because so much is involved to keep these racers safe.

But Staff also said he was thrilled when he and Squires were able to work out all the details. With help from Cleveland city officials and MetroHealth Hospital Specialists, the wheelchair athletes will have their own division. There are 10 slots and they are all filled.

The Cleveland Marathon is May 15.

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