PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Marathons have long been considered a grueling challenge of physical and mental prowess as athletes covering 26.2 miles in a matter of hours.

Just after sunrise on Sunday, about two dozen handcyclists will begin that long journey along the Pittsburgh Marathon course.

“We start at 6:50 in the morning and there are Pittsburghers out there to cheer us on all along the course,” Dr. Rudy Cooper said.

They race through the marathon’s miles on bikes powered only by their arms and shoulders. This year’s course is supposed to be flatter, but Cooper isn’t holding his breath.

“You still have to go from the South Side, through Oakland, Shadyside, Penn Hills, Swissvale, that sort of — and that’s — the big hills are really over there,” he said.

In addition to being an impressive handcyclist, Cooper is known around the world for his work with HERL to improve the mobility and function of disabled patients, including many of the marathon racers.

“A number of them collaborate with us on research — actually all of them in some way I have worked with on research, but a lot of the technology they have used has either been developed by or influenced by our work,” he said.

While Cooper knows he is not quite as fast as he used to be, he looks forward the camaraderie and some friendly competition.

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