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New York City Marathon Runners Race Against Tragedy (PHOTOS)

The Huffington Post     First Posted: 11/07/11 09:43 AM ET   Updated: 11/07/11 12:16 PM ET

Running 26.2 miles through New York City's grueling terrain is daunting enough. But, for those who have faced heart-wrenching tragedies -- the kind that can justifiably keep you holed up in bed indefinitely -- gathering the strength to lace up and hit the pavement can feel like an insurmountable challenge. For six competitors, paralysis, murdered loved ones and severe war wounds couldn't keep them from joining the more than 45,000 athletes who raced in The Big Apple's signature competition on Sunday.

Read their inspiring stories of triumph.

SLIDESHOW:

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  • Tatyana McFadden, Paralyzed From Waist Down

    Paralyzed from the waist down and abandoned at a Russian orphanage, Tatyana McFadden wasn't expected to survive. But, the resilient athlete -- who was born with spina bifida -- taught herself to walk on her hands and eventually trained to become one of the world's top wheelchair athletes, <a href="http://espn.go.com/espnw/more-sports/7178926/tatyana-mcfadden-outraces-fate" target="_hplink">according to ESPN.com.</a> McFadden placed third in the women's wheelchair race on Sunday, completing the competition in 1:52:52.

  • Marjorie Kagan, Widow

    After her husband died four years ago, Marjorie Kagan, 81, wasn't willing to sit around and mourn. She decided she needed to take on a new challenge, according to New York Road Runners. Recently inspired by a friend she met at a local dog park, Kagan picked up running in March and competed in her first marathon on Sunday.

  • Michael Kacer, Wounded Warrior

    Michael Kacer, 29, was one of 25 veterans with disabilities who fought through the New York City Marathon on Sunday, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/05/us/nyc-marathon-wounded-vets/" target="_hplink">CNN reports.</a> After Kacer lost his left arm and suffered a reverse colostomy and two collapsed lungs in an explosion, he didn't think rerurning to sports would ever be an option. "I never thought I'd ever be able to run, let alone run a marathon, which was always a life goal for me," Kacer told the news outlet.

  • Flight 93 Family Members, Honor Fallen Heroes

    Ten years after their family members died on United Airlines Flight 93, survivors are still working to raise millions of dollars to complete the memorial at the Shanksville, Pa. crash. On Sunday, 18 of those survivors banded together at the starting line wearing t-shirts bearing the message, <a href="http://espn.go.com/olympics/story/_/id/7184590/a-memorial-motion-family-friends-run-nyc-marathon-honor-flight-93-victims" target="_hplink">"They never gave up, and neither will we," ESPN.com reports. </a>

  • Rob Vassilarakis, Former Drug Addict

    After kicking a 15-year drug addiction, Rob Vassilarakis decided to commit the same streets where he slept and got high, to getting his body into shape. The Bronx native was inspired to pick up marathon training in 2009 and often remarks that he went from "running the streets, to running the streets," according to New York Road Runners.

  • Elizabeth Maiuolo, Heart Attack Survivor

    Though Elizabeth Maiuolo suffered a heart attack at 28 in 2004, she didn't let her condition keep her from tackling the most grueling of sports. In 2008, Maiuolo competed in her first New York City Marathon and has continued to race in marathons and ultra marathons, according to New York Road Runners.

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