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Preparing for Boston: Natick Paralympian talks about training for the Boston Marathon

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At 26, Anjali Forber-Pratt is one of the top US paralympians. Raised in Natick, she won a bronze medal in the 400-meter wheelchair racing event at the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008. She gave this telephone interview from Chicago, where she is training for her first Boston Marathon next month.

You've mostly been a speed racer. Why the Boston Marathon now?

From the time I was really little I grew up watching the Boston Marathon. I was 5 years old and totally enamored that there were these people racing by in wheelchairs whizzing by at 25 miles per hour. So much so that I was that little kid at Halloween in a costume of the winner of the Boston Marathon.

So for me, obviously it's always been a childhood dream of mine, but the timing was never quite right. When I was a kid you had to be 18, then that time came and I was more focused with downhill skiing and things like that. When I made my first US team, my strengths were in the sprint.

My very first marathon was two years ago in Chicago. My coach, Adam Bleakney, asked "How would like to do 422 hundred-meter sprints sometime in the middle of October?" Doing some math in my head, my response was, "You aren't talking about the Chicago Marathon by chance are you?" And of course he was.

That was my very first and I have to tell you it was pretty awful. It was 26 degrees at the start of the race. It's a marathon and I'm a sprinter, and I was coming down with a cold. I was having asthma. I'm a natural born fighter and I was bound and determined to finish my first marathon so I did.

Forber-Pratt finished the race in 2 hours 25 minutes, more than a half hour behind the top women. But when she entered Chicago again last year she improved her time to 2:02:05, qualifying for Boston.

You've just come back from the International Paralympic World Championships in New Zealand (winning one gold and two silver medals). What are you doing to get ready for Boston?

I train six days a week right now, and we're slowly increasing the distance we're doing. To me the key is the weight room to have the strength for the Boston hills. For a wheelchair racer, chest and shoulders are really important.

It's still pretty cold out here in Illinois and we've had snow on the ground until relatively recently. We're hoping next week-ish it will be warm enough to start outside training. We do have an indoor track.

For me right now, it's getting my endurance level up to be able to push 26.2 miles. With coming off of New Zealand, I was very focused on my sprinting events — from 100 meters to 800 meters. But 800 meters is a half a mile.

Do you have any message to people back in your hometown?

If you're a fellow runner, keep at it with the training. It's going to be here before you know it. And if you're not a runner get out there and cheer and support because we'll all need it.

This interview was edited and condensed.

People can cheer on Forber-Pratt during her marathon through this wiki page - - and can follow her on Twitter: #anjalidoesboston and


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