Tatyana McFadden crosses the finish line to win the women's wheelchair division of the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 in Boston.
BOSTON -- Perhaps more than any other elite athlete in Monday’s 118th Boston Marathon, Tatyana McFadden was an inspiration to the victims of the Boylston Street bombings that killed three people and injured 264 others a year ago.
In winning her second straight Boston Marathon women’s wheelchair title in 1 hour, 35 minutes and 6 seconds on her 25th birthday, McFadden did so while wearing the jersey of the team supporting the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation.
Martin was the 8-year-old Boston boy killed when bombs rocked the world’s oldest continuous marathon last year on Patriots’ Day. His sister, Jane, lost her leg in the blast.
McFadden, who was born in Russia with spina bifida before being adopted when she was 6, took time during the run up to this year’s marathon to meet with the Richard family.
McFadden also met Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, the newlyweds who each lost their left leg while watching the race last year and crossed the finish line on handcycles Monday.
“It’s about people coming together and supporting each other to that finish line,” McFadden said after the race. “It’s about rebirth of new lives and people living life differently. It’s not about what you lost but how you live life and remembering who was lost and that is really, really important.”
McFadden got to the finish line ahead of Japan’s Wakako Tsuchida (1:37:24). American Susannah Scaroni, a Paralympian who won the 2013 Los Angeles Marathon, finished third with a time of 1:38:33.
McFadden, who won her Boston debut shortly before the bombings last year in 1:45:25, trailed the pack in the early going before taking a commanding lead at the 13.5-mile marker.
“I knew the race was going to be a difficult one,” McFadden said. “It was a chasing game. I had to chase Wakako, and I told myself it would be over unless I caught her halfway. I hit all the climbs hard and relaxed on the downhill, trying to keep continuous pace to catch her. Then I just kept going.”
Just eight days ago, McFadden won the London Marathon, and just a month ago, she took a silver medal at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in the 1-kilometer skiing Nordic race. She said Monday’s marathon course featured the loudest crowd she’s heard since the London 2012 Paralympic Games, where she won three gold medals and a bronze medal.
“Being out on the course and having the fans cheering was unbelievable,” she said. “I can’t even describe the moment. It gave me goose bumps and lifted you almost. Especially in the last three miles. You couldn’t even hear yourself think, but you just took in the energy from the crowd. That moment didn’t know if you should cry or smile. Just so much emotion went through.
“It was wonderful. It’s a symbol of community and community coming together.”
And now that she has cleared an emotional hurdle in Boston, McFadden will look continue her historic streak with second marathon grand slam. McFadden won marathons in Boston, London, New York and Chicago. She’s halfway toward repeating that achievement this year.
“That would be absolutely unbelievable,” she said of possibly sweeping the four marathons again this year. “No one has ever done it. I can’t believe my body is doing it. … We’ll see. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be really, really tough. Girls are getting faster. It’s going to be really, really tough.”
Either way, Jane Richard is a fan for life.
“When I went to (the Richard’s) fundraising dinner, Jane just ran up to me and introduced herself,” McFadden said at the post-race news conference. “She was full of life and energy, which brought up so many happy emotions for me. She told me about how much she loves sports, like basketball, dancing and swimming. I told her, ‘If sports make you happy, then just keep playing.’
“She even took a few selfies with my medals from Sochi and London, saying she was an Olympian, and I told her that she was.”
Justin A. Rice is a Boston-based freelance writer who covers sports and local news. He has been a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org since 2010 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.