Survivor's Boston Marathon: 26.2 miles of agonizing ecstasy

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BOSTON >> She laughed. She wept. She walked. She ran. For amputee Adrianne Haslet, the Boston Marathon was a grueling 101/2-hour odyssey.

But she finished. And Haslet, a professional ballroom dancer who lost her left leg in the 2013 finish line bombings, says conquering the course on a carbon-fiber blade was a giant leap forward toward reclaiming her life.

"It's really emotional because I think of all the definitions that this finish line has held," she said after limping across the line Monday night.

It was 26.2 miles of agonizing ecstasy for Haslet, 35, of Boston, whose prosthesis dug painfully into her stump.

It began swelling and blistering around mile 7 after it accidentally got doused by a cup of water. By mile 14, she had to spend an hour in a medical tent, and wondered how she'd manage to reach Boylston Street.

"It was unbearably painful," Haslet told The Associated Press on Tuesday in her first interview since completing the marathon.

"It was like an angry shoe," she said, still hoarse from whooping up a storm during the race. "You don't want to take off your shoe in mid-race and put it back on. You certainly don't want to take off your leg and put it back on. I would crumble to the ground each time and say, 'My God, I'm going to have to pull out of this race.' "

Anguished supporters who tracked Haslet's slow progress on the Boston Athletic Association's website thought the same.

In the end, her own steely determination — and the cheers, real and virtual, of people who lined the route and on social media — powered her to the same finish line where a bomb had left her shredded and bleeding three years earlier.

"People came out of their houses to cheer, shouting out of fourth-story windows," she said. "I felt it not only from the crowd but from the other runners. It's amazing to see the whole city come together like that."

Among her fans was New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who posted on Facebook: "Two years ago I was lucky enough to meet Adrianne Haslet, a survivor of the 2013 Marathon bombings. She's on the course now, running the race for the first time — with a prosthetic leg. Adrianne thank you for being my inspiration!!"

From President Barack Obama's official account came this tweet at mid-race: "Thank you, Adrianne, for being Boston Strong. Terror and bombs can't beat us. We carry on. We finish the race!"

Haslet dedicated her run to Limbs for Life, an Oklahoma City-based organization that provides prostheses for amputees who can't afford them.

In 2013, she was standing near the finish line cheering for the runners when she was injured by the second of two bombs planted among the crowds. Three people were killed and more than 260 others wounded in the attacks.

She had vowed two things after the attacks: to dance again and to run the marathon.

"Fundamentally, I think going the distance means not giving up. It means giving it another try," she told the AP. "It was never about finishing. It was about the people of Boston."

Her medal hanging around her neck, Haslet posted a photo of herself opening a bottle of champagne with the caption: "I have no words. Filled to the brim with the utter definition of joy."

Her leg is still too swollen to wear any prosthesis. But Haslet said she's taking it all in stride.

"Pain is temporary," she told the AP. "That medal lasts forever."

Follow Bill Kole on Twitter at https://twitter.com/billkole. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/william-j-kole


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