In the men’s wheelchair division of Monday’s Boston Marathon, Daniel Romanchuk took advantage of a surprise withdrawal to win here for the second time.
The 23-year-old Romanchuk led for 23 of the 26.2 miles, winning in 1:26:58, more than a minute off last year’s pace.
He did that hours after Switzerland’s Marcel Hug, the five-time champion and course record-holder (1:18:04 in 2017), pulled out.
In an Instagram post, Hug wrote that “symptoms came back yesterday from my Covid infection two weeks ago. It’s very disappointing but I have to listen to my body and take care.”
Romanchuk, who said he was praying that Hug recovered quickly, was initially stunned by the absence of the “Swiss Silver Bullet.”
“A game-changer,” said Romanchuk, who topped second-place finisher Aaron Pike (1:32:49) by nearly six minutes.
According to Popular Mechanics, top wheelchair racers such as Romanchuk can push their chairs, which weigh less than 20 pounds, for an average speed of 20 m.p.h. at Boston. They can hit 50 coming down the back side of Heartbreak Hill.
A young star in wheelchair racing who was born with spina bifida, Romanchuk began racing at 5 years old. He won Boston in 2019, on his third try, at age 20. He became the youngest men’s wheelchair winner, and the first American to win that race since 1993.
There was no doubt about Monday’s women’s wheelchair race result.
The heavy favorite, Switzerland’s Manuela Schär, left everyone in the dust in capturing her fourth Boston wreath. Winning in 1:41:08, she hardly seemed bothered moments after crossing the finish line.
“She doesn’t even seem out of breath,” said a commentator on the world TV feed.
Quite an accomplishment, considering she battled COVID a few weeks ago. The virus left her dizzy and fatigued, and forced her to take days off from training.
“This one is special,” said Schär, 37. “I was more nervous than I usually am. Preparation was a bit difficult. I wish I had two or three more weeks for training. I didn’t quite know where I stood with COVID.
“I’m just so glad to be back. The crowd was amazing, and I needed that today.”
In 2017, Schär set a course record and world record (1:28:17) when she won the first of her titles here.
On Monday, she finished 5:12 ahead of second-place Susannah Scaroni.
Schär, who won last October’s race by nearly 15 minutes, had a positive start. A few minutes in, a man on the course shouted to her, “Today’s your day.”
“Maybe he’s right,” she thought.
She passed several men’s wheelchair racers on her way to the finish, smiling broadly after crossing the line. It is her 15th major marathon title.
Schär was 9 when a playground accident damaged her spinal cord, paralyzing her from the waist down. She recovered at the Swiss Paraplegic Centre in Nottwil, a key training center for wheelchair racing in that area.
“I met these amazing athletes who had this normal life and just trained and did that sport,” she said. “That was really important for me. That’s how I ended up in wheelchair racing. They took me under their wing, just for fun at the beginning, and got more serious.”
Both the men’s and women’s wheelchair winners earn a $62,500 prize.
Haslet calls it ‘best day of my life’
Under perfect sunny skies, Adrianne Haslet was among those who conquered the course. Haslet, the ballroom dancer who lost a leg in the 2013 bombing, hugged running partner Shalane Flanagan after the two crossed the finish line at 3:08 p.m. Haslet, who also overcame severe injuries after she was struck by a car in 2019, told WBZ after the race that she’ll “remember every face and every sign and every dog and every baby along that course.” Through tears, she called it “the best day of my life. I’m so proud of us. I didn’t want to keep running, but I didn’t want it to end.” Her partner, Flanagan, retired from pro running in 2019. Haslet, who finished in 5:18:41, added, “I am really in need of champagne and french fries.” … Another of the most inspiring of the 30,000 runners: Jacky Hunt-Broersma, in her quest to run 102 marathons in 102 days, finished No. 92 in a time of 5:05:13. The 46-year-old South African, who lives in Gilbert, Ariz., lost the lower part of her left leg below the knee to Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of cancer more commonly found in children. She originally planned to run 100, but when British runner Kate Jayden completed 101 marathons in as many days, she aimed for at least 102 … Berj Najarian, the chief confidant to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, did his job and finished the course in 4:49:43.
The event marked the 50th anniversary of the first year women were officially allowed to run. One of the first eight, Val Rogosheske, ran at age 75. Rogosheske and her daughters Allie and Abby were three of 14,000-plus women in the race. She finished in 6:29:03 … Former Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller, the first woman to play for a Power 5 conference college football team, posted a 5:37:17 time … Retired NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth, 50, finished in 3:01:40 … The grand marshals were Boston Pride hockey champions Jillian Dempsey (Winthrop) and Mary Parker (Milton), who brought the Isobel Cup to the starting line … The top American male and female finishers raced sans sponsors. Scott Fauble (2:08:52) left Hoka in December, reportedly because he felt stagnant. Nell Rojas (2:25:57), who signed with Adidas in January, recently ended that partnership. She didn’t say much about her decision Monday, other than that the shoes “didn’t work for me.” Both ran in Nikes … The return of crowds brought plenty of signs, including a Wellesley College student holding one that said, “Kissing Me >> [i.e. is greater than] Runner’s High” … Former women’s champion Des Linden (2:28:57) on women competing in Boston: “It’s not lost on me that there’s 126 years of race history here, and we’re rah-rahing 50. We have to keep raising the bar.”
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