The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Adrianne Haslet’s Boston Marathon was ‘the best day of my life’

Adrianne Haslet's “best day” began at the Boston Marathon's starting line, with Shalane Flanagan (left) as her support runner in the Para Division. (Mary Schwalm/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

Adrianne Haslet had experienced her worst moments on or near the Boston Marathon course before Monday’s 126th running of the event. It was then, though, that the marathon offered up what she could say was “the best day of my life.”

Haslet, who lost her left leg in the 2013 bombing and suffered serious arm injuries in 2019 when she was struck by a car as she crossed a street near the finish line, was a runner Monday, completing the race for the second time in three attempts. In the marathon’s Para Division, Haslet finished the 26.2 miles in 5 hours 18 minutes 41 seconds — well ahead of the six hours expected by Shalane Flanagan, the legendary marathoner who coached her and ran as her support.

On Tuesday morning, Haslet mostly felt exhilaration, with only a little exhaustion to be expected after performing such a grueling task. Initially concerned that her leg would be swollen where it meets the prosthesis, she was pleased to be able to put it on. There was some soreness in her upper legs and arms, but she still celebrated with friends Monday night — and with lobster Tuesday morning.

“I’m fortunate that my body is recovering the way it is,” Haslet said in a phone interview. “I’m mostly feeling a lot of adrenaline and happiness.”

‘The month my body remembers’

The run itself was “amazing,” especially a moment when she stopped to hug Ian Nurse, the Wellness in Motion doctor who, along with his team “has built this body back strong for something like this.”

Even Heartbreak Hill couldn’t crush her spirit, with Flanagan coaching her through it. “ ‘Here it is,’ ” Haslet said Flanagan told her. “ ‘Power your arms and let your feet touch the ground as little as possible.’ And I got a second wind near the top of Heartbreak Hill.”

That didn’t keep the other tough spots out of her mind. “I definitely knew [the car accident site] was coming, and Shalane said: ‘Hey, this is it — the turn. You want to power through it. You want to go through it stronger than you were that day.’ She was crying, and I was crying. I lifted my head up and I put my wings out and I just took off.”

The crowd noise was overpowering and it “was so emotional,” Haslet said. “People were shouting our names nonstop and it was amazing to run past the place where I lost my mobility and so much more. To redefine it was a real moment for me and so powerful.”

As she passed the place where she lost her leg, she slowed to a walk for a couple of steps “to take it in and make it last” before powering through the finish. She was so happy and motivated as she ran through the finish line, describing Flanagan having to yell at her that, finally, her race was over.

Haslet did run the race in 2016 and gave it a try in 2018 but was forced to stop because of cold, rainy conditions. The next year, her plan was derailed by serious arm and shoulder injuries resulting from the car accident. Then the 2020 race was canceled and she rolled her ankle training for the 2021 race last fall.

This time, the stars aligned.

“I’ve been through so much trauma and tried so many times to get to that start line, and I kept having to start over, and my performance exceeded my expectations and my time,” she said.

Now that she has helped bring a Para Division to the Boston Marathon, Haslet hopes the Paralympics will expand its events. Flanagan believes she is best suited to running middle distances — and so does Haslet, who plans to continue to advocate for more events “for people like me” in the 2024 Paralympics. She already has heard from the International Paralympic Committee, she said, “and I hope that means Paris.”

In the meantime, she is “running on nothing but adrenaline and happiness,” enjoying a runner’s high and a little bit of champagne.

“Gosh, we had fun,” she said. “That was the most fun I’ve ever had in my whole life.”

Loading...