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12-year-old Ukrainian double amputee to run 5K on Boston Marathon weekend

Yana Stepanenko lost both her legs in a Russian missile strike

Boston Marathon

While the Boston Marathon is always filled with heartening stories of runners, this year’s story about 12-year-old double amputee Yana Stepanenko taking on the 5K is particularly poignant.

Stepanenko, a naturally sporty young girl, has not given up her athletic dreams since losing both her legs in a Russian missile attack on her Ukranian hometown that left her family stranded. (The family eventually emigrated to the U.S.).

When the attack killed 59 people, including seven children, Stepanenko and her mother and siblings managed to escape, though her mother also lost a leg in the attack. Stepanenko and her family have received rehabilitative care in San Diego after fleeing Ukraine in April 2022.

Since her rehabilitation, Stepanenko has two prosthetic legs and has adapted to her new reality. In the fall of 2023, she ran a small portion of the Lviv Half Marathon in Ukraine.


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“I was initially scared when I ran for the first time,” Stepanenko told Unbroken Ukraine, an organization that has followed, documented and translated her rehabilitation story on its YouTube channel. She adds, “I have lived through very tough moments and am very happy to walk and run again.”

Stepanenko trains “several times a week” and will take on the B.A.A. 5K race at the Boston Marathon on April 13. She hopes to inspire others through her feat.

Canadian Running is at the 2024 Boston Marathon with Under Armour to celebrate the launch of the Velociti Elite 2, the brand’s fastest carbon racing shoe to date. Be sure to stay plugged into our socials on Instagram and X for everything Boston this weekend.

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