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the injured runner

Runner injured by shrapnel hands baton to husband

Allison Byrne can’t run this year because of injuries she sustained in 2013; her husband Josh will run instead. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Allison Byrne can’t run this year because of injuries she sustained in 2013; her husband Josh will run instead.

Allison Byrne was among the more than 260 injured in the Boston Marathon bombings last year.

Byrne, now 44, was knocked to the ground by a spray of shrapnel from the second blast as she ran along Bolyston Street near Forum restaurant.

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She was some 200 yards from the finish line.

A cellphone-sized piece of shrapnel was lodged in her left calf. Byrne pleaded with first responders to help her cross the finish line, but her injuries were too serious.

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What the responders didn’t know was that Byrne was close to completing a 26.2-mile journey that, for her, began when her only sibling, 37-year-old Karina, died of breast cancer in July 2012.

“She had been hard to conceive, so she was precious from the get-go,’’ Byrne said. “She was the little superstar of our family. She was captain of her lacrosse team, captain of field hockey, captain of the basketball team. She was 6 feet tall and a super athlete.

“After living in her shadow, we kind of said she condensed her life into a hot little package.’’

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A month after losing her sister, Byrne saw her beloved dog, a 3-year-old Wheaten terrier named Murphy, run over and killed by a car.

“He helped me get through that first month, which I’m forever grateful for, but it was so hard to lose him,’’ Byrne said. “I was kind of like, ‘Oh God, what next?’ Little did I know, right?’’

Byrne decided to run the 117th Boston Marathon in honor of Karina. It was her first attempt at the distance.

“I’m sort of lanky and I look like a runner and I sort of play sports, but I like to joke that I don’t even like to drive in a car for four hours,’’ said Byrne, an avid golfer and tennis player. “But when I heard it would take about four hours or so to run it, I was sort of put off by it immediately.

“I just knew it would be a good way to grieve. It made the healing process a good one, I do believe that.

“I like to thrive on doing healthy things, so why not raise money for a good cause, honor my sister, help myself? I really believe there’s a lot of good out there, but sometimes you have to look harder.’’

Byrne’s optimistic outlook was put to the test, however.

‘I did see the first explosion and I knew it wasn’t right . . . ’ - Allison Byrne

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“As I was running down that stretch, my fastest mile was the last mile and all I thought about was finishing under four [hours],’’ she said. “I did see the first explosion and I knew it wasn’t right, and the second one was just to my left. ‘’

Byrne was hospitalized at Boston Medical Center for a week, undergoing two surgeries. Her injuries resulted in permanent nerve damage, leaving her without feeling in her left shin and the top of her foot.

Although she is unable to run the 118th Boston Marathon, Byrne’s 49-year-old husband, Josh, will carry the baton for her, wearing a navy T-shirt emblazoned with “Allison Strong’’ on the front. Through it all, though, Byrne’s positive nature has remained unwavering.

“One of the things that’s kept me happy is not really dwelling on the past, lost opportunities or negative things,’’ she said. “My husband’s going to run this year and he was like, ‘Gosh darn it, I’m going to run this thing. They took it away from you last year, so one of us is going to do it.’

“So I’m going to be out there, supporting him, and that is good enough for me.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.
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