StoriesHanna Adams ’13

Striding down the road to triumph

Threshold alumna Hanna Adams ’13 overcame multiple disabilities to make her Boston Marathon dream a reality.

Imani Graham and Hanna Adams (who is on the right) smile and Hannah waves during a run.
Above: From March 24, Hanna Adams, right, and her training partner Imani Graham complete the Hopkinton, Mass., 21-mile run. Hanna toed the mark in Hopkinton again on April 15, 2019, as she began her first Boston Marathon.

Several years ago, Somerville resident Hanna Adams, a 2013 alumna of our Threshold Program, celebrated at the finish of the Boston Marathon as her friend and fellow Threshold graduate Phillip Murray finished the grueling and iconic road race.

In 2019, she got her chance to do the same, running as part of the Boston Public Library fundraising team. But the road to get there was arduous.

Hanna has long known she wanted to complete the marathon herself, and she was determined not to let anything stop her, not even being born with multiple disabilities, one of which left her right side weakened. Born in Medellin, Colombia in 1993, and adopted by parents John and Cindy Adams of Connecticut, Hanna soon was figuratively and literally on the road to triumphing over difficult circumstances.

According to her mother, Hanna began treatment at Shriner’s Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts, which involved years of wearing leg braces and undergoing physical therapy, which showed encouraging results.

Hanna and her father John Adams wearing race medals after the Marine Corp Marathon
Hanna Adams and her father, John, at the finish line after completing the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon.

“At age 5, Hanna ran the Kids Race for the Cure with her brother, Ben, after (I had) battled invasive breast cancer,” says Cindy Adams. Hanna went on to run cross-country and track through middle and high school in Granby, Conn.

“Finishing at the back of the pack many times, she set personal goals each week with Coach (Wally) Hansen and Coach (Dennis) Lobo and slowly improved over time,” Cindy says.

The training worked and, after her high school running career, Hanna set her sights on a different challenge: higher education. She enrolled in our Threshold Program, an on-campus certificate program that trains students with diverse learning challenges for the work world, while imparting important life skills.

Threshold faculty member Patricia Morrissey clearly remembers Hanna’s drive.

“Hanna always had a positive attitude and was very determined to accomplish anything she took on,” Morrissey says. “I am thrilled that she is taking part in the Boston Marathon, as I remember her as an enthusiastic runner always having this goal.”

For her part, Hanna credits teachers like Morrissey, and the whole Threshold Program, with being an important ally in reaching her goals and self-reliance.

“I would say that the program helped me to learn how to be independent, pay bills, learn how to go far and beyond of what I want my dream to be,” Hanna says.

But Hanna put in the work herself and earned certification as an early-childhood teacher. For more than four years, she has worked at the Arlington Infant Toddler Center, balancing her work life with social engagements and training.

Lots of training.

While she was at Threshold, she found another coach and training partner — her father, John, who ran his first marathon in 2014. She calls him her “running role model.”

With his help, and later the encouragement and guidance of the running club Boston Fit, Hanna trained for half-marathons and, in fall of 2015, took on the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., which she completed with her father.

Hanna Adams, center, with two fellow 2013 Threshold graduates and running buddies Philip Murray and Sarah Hay-Smith.
Hanna Adams, center, with two fellow 2013 Threshold graduates and running buddies Philip Murray and Sarah Hay-Smith.

“Every Saturday morning, I would wake up early to meet up with my team and listen to what to expect as a marathoner,” Hanna says. The strenuous undertaking was made easier by having a cheering section in her corner.

“The biggest supporters are my family, Team Adams, because they knew how dedicated I was to wake up early to do long runs with my running group and finish my first marathon,” Hanna says, adding that her brother and mother are also committed to the fitness lifestyle.

That lifestyle is fueled by wholesome, normal food, and with her training regimen, Hanna doesn’t shy away from carbohydrates.

“While I prepare for my marathon, the types of foods that I eat are like anything, but not junk foods,” she said a few weeks before the big day. “Before the day of my marathon, I will eat lots of carbs while hydrating, too. Then on the day of the race, for breakfast I eat a bagel with peanut butter and orange juice.

“I avoid junk foods and stay with the right, healthy choices during my training."

In her spare time, Hanna stays active.

“I ski with my family during the wintertime,” she says. “During the summertime, I love to swim, and when I was young I did soccer and softball. But I would say that running is my true passion sport.”

And the Boston running community is taking notice: Hanna’s story was chosen by the Boston Athletic Association for a Charity Spotlight for the Boston Marathon in 2019, in which they note that Hanna refuses to let her disabilities hold her back and “hopes her personal story can guide others.”