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‘Anyone can do it’: Woman who is legally blind completes Boston Marathon

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Completing the Boston Marathon is an unbelievable accomplishment for any athlete, but its especially exciting for two women from Union County.

Alexandra Brown and her friend, Shannon Houlihan, were able to check the bucket list item off on Monday.

Running a road race alone can be challenging. But for athletes who are visually impaired -- like Brown, who became legally blind about 10 years ago -- it’s a challenge accepted.

“Just like anything in life, it builds character,” she said.

(PHOTOS: 2023 Boston Marathon)

Brown laced up for the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon and used a rope to help her. She also had suport from her friend, Shannon Houlihan, who’s the founder of Charlotte-based nonprofit Para Guide.

Para Guide provides support for athletes who are blind or visually impaired and want to run, cycle, and swim. Those are all things Brown has done over the last several years, including races near and far like the Houston Marathon.

“You’re setting a goal and you’re trying to reach that goal,” Brown said.

For nearly a year, Brown and Houlihan trained for the race in Boston. They honed their skills, practicing communicating and navigating around all the possible obstacles in a sea of about 30,000 people.

“You get pushed around a little bit,” Houlihan said.

“Keeping Alexandra safe since she is visually impaired, she can’t always know what’s coming towards us or what’s right in front of us, so that’s my job,” she said.

Brown has taken the skills she’s learned to land a job and live on her own at 30 years old, with help from her guide dog, Jimmy. She’s already on a winning streak.

And now, Brown has done it again, running in Boston in memory of her late grandfather who she recently lost. She’s also running for all the people who are more capable than some may realize.

“Anyone can do it, and just because I’m proof of that,” she said.

Brown has qualified for the Boston Marathon before, but this was her first time running it. On average, it can cost more than $3,000 for runners to participate in the race, but she didn’t pay a dime thanks to donations and community support.

(WATCH BELOW: Safety tips for running or jogging)