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Para Division Champion

Adrienne Keane | Published on 5/5/2024

On April 15th, I got to run my 4th Boston Marathon - first time running in the BAA Para Athletics program and my 3rd time running on the Boston Children's Hospital Miles for Miracles team. After I finished the World Marathon Majors in Tokyo last year, I thought I was done. But never say "never" J.


Last year at the Boston Marathon expo, I saw a sign for “Para Athletes”. I wondered what this was and ended up meeting the Program Director, Taylor Wilson. Taylor told me about the Para Athletic Division which is a competitive division within the PA program. The Para Athletic division began in 2021 and Boston is the first major marathon to offer this opportunity to differently-abled runners. There are 7 classifications. Applicants must have a national or World Para Athletics classification and meet time qualification standards. I really don’t see myself as a competitive athlete, but Taylor convinced me I didn’t need to be fast. And she really got me interested when she told me there was prize money! I decided why not give it a try.


I time qualified in the Upper Limb Impairment division and had my classification code interview with two members of the International Paralympic Committee. And in addition to the Boston Marathon, I received an invitational entry to the BAA 5K on Saturday.


At the 5K I got a taste of how awesome it is to run in the Para Athletic division. I met so many amazing, differently-abled athletes. We had our own support tent and got to start directly behind the pro women. What a thrill that was! For us, the normally crowded 5K start was an open road. I won my division, and the BAA presented me a beautiful silver cup at the award ceremony. And the best part – a big hug from Joan Benoit.

And then marathon day arrived. I rode the MVS bus and joined the other Para Athletes on Hopkinton Common. Again, we followed the elite women out to line up at the start line. After the gun went off for the women, our turn at the start line came. We had a 9:50 start which proved very helpful given the heat. I had so much adrenaline waiting for the gun to go off and when it did, I took off down the hill. Luckily, I soon reined in my pace because the last thing I wanted in Boston was to go out too fast.


The marathon proved difficult for me with the heat and me being a bit undertrained due to illness in February. Despite these obstacles, I ran a strong race and finished fast on Boylston Street. The crowd support and words of encouragement kept me going. The icing on the cake -I won the Upper Limb Impairment divisionand the BAA honored me with a laurel wreath and beautiful crystal vase! That was one of the most meaningful moments of my life. I still can’t believe it. A big thank you to Jenn Curro and Fred Parmenter for braving the crowds and accompanying me to the award ceremony at the Copley Plaza. The whole experience still seems surreal to me. I never in a million years could have imagined becoming a Boston Marathon champion.

The marathon has taught me that we can persevere to do hard things - like running through heat, fatigue, and pain. We are so much stronger than we know. And especially when we have a higher purpose. Running to inspire others and support Boston Children’s Hospital gave me the drive to get to the finish. And now it looks like I may have one more Boston left to run to defend my title. My hope is that we can attract more women and men to run in this division showing the world what is possible.

I’m grateful to the Merrimack Valley Striders, for introducing me to this wonderful sport. And to the Boston Athletic Association for encouraging me to compete in Para Athletics. And especially to all my family & friends that cheered and supported me through the training and race day.


Road Runners Club of America USATF - New England Mill Cities Relay