The 2022 Boston Marathon on April 18 was so much more than a 26.2-mile race. It showcased a thrilling battle for the women’s title between pro runners Peres Jepchirchir and Ababel Yeshaneh. It inspired thousands who watched an honorary women’s team composed of women’s sports trailblazers compete. But, most importantly, it was a salient reminder to be Boston Strong — a slogan the city adopted after the tragedy — just like para-athlete and Boston bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet.
This year’s Boston Marathon marked its 126th anniversary in the small town of Hopkinton, Mass., but was only the 50th time women were allowed to compete. Over 12,000 women participated in the 26.2-mile challenge, embodying the strength of the first women to run the same route years before them. Each of them came to the start line carrying a unique journey with them. One of these women was Adrianne Haslet.
Haslet’s story began in 2013, as she felt the energy of Marathon Monday radiate through Boston and went to watch the magic in-person. As she stood directly next to the bomber, Haslet was just feet away from the epicenter of one of two bombs that the terrorists detonated near the finish line. She survived, but ultimately lost her left leg.
Recovery is not linear, and it is not absolute. The terrorists tried to instill fear and harm in the runners and in the people of Boston. They failed. Haslet found a way to reclaim her power by choosing to embrace the very activity associated with her trauma. Running is freeing and empowering, as it provides a way for individuals like Haslet to rebuild power and autonomy.
Haslet started running marathons in 2016 and finished her first race dead last. That did not discourage her, however, as she tried to return to Boston in 2018 but was unable to finish the race because of a storm. She was then struck by a car, delayed by the pandemic, and rolled her ankle from 2019 through 2021.
2022 was Haslet’s year, as she finally crossed the Boston finish line, the same place where her whole life had been forcibly uprooted nine years earlier. She rewrote her own story and inspired those who knew her story to do the same.
By participating in the marathon, Haslet showed survivors everywhere that they are stronger than those who try to silence them and try to fill the world with fear. She showed amputees that they can be marathon runners, too. She showed all of us watching that we are capable of so much more than the limits our own doubts prescribe us.
Haslet’s sheer determination and resilient spirit are truly remarkable. The marathon demands physical and emotional endurance, and people like Haslet who face extreme adversity must overcome more miles than most in their lifetime to cross the finish line. Running is often viewed as an individual challenge, yet American marathon legend Shalane Flanagan’s constant encouragement of Haslet offered a lesson in the power of solidarity. The crowd’s uproarious cheers proved that the people of Boston are stronger than the darkness the terrorists tried to create nine years ago. More importantly, while proving that Boston Strong is more than a mere phrase, she also showed that the marathon, just like every challenge in life, is a feat people should never have to undertake alone.
Everyone chooses to run the marathon for a different reason but is nevertheless uplifted by all those around them. From the loud cheers of encouragement from the crowd to the gasping whisper of “you’ve got this, keep going!” from a fellow runner between breaths, the marathon brings the city together. In no other city does this unity carry greater weight than in Boston, the city where running has been challenged more than anywhere else.
Haslet is Boston Strong, and she inspires everyone watching her to spread the joy and the magic of the marathon, too. She inspires us to be Boston Strong but sends a powerful reminder that we never have to do it completely alone.
Carrie McDonald is a sophomore in the College. The Equalizer appears online and in print every other week.