Runners: Annabelle Hanson

Annabelle Hanson will be one of the youngest runners in Trivium Racing’s Greensboro Half Marathon on Saturday. Almost assuredly she will be the only runner in the field diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Annabelle is the subject of today’s Runners profile.

Runners: Annabelle Hanson
Annabelle Hanson during a run at the beach.

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Annabelle Hanson will be one of the youngest runners in Trivium Racing’s Greensboro Half Marathon on Saturday. Almost assuredly she will be the only runner in the field diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Her persistence and a new medication, Trikafta, combined with support from an athletic family, have made racing 13.1 miles not possible but a reality. Annabelle is the subject of today’s Runners profile.

Annabelle Hanson




Belews Creek


Mother, Jessica; father, Mark; twin brother, Dominik; brother, Isaac, 4.

Day job

Home-schooled student

Why I run

"I like running because I get to spend time with my dad. And it's just fun for me since I'm not really good at any other sport. ...

"Since we live out in the country, we have like 40 acres combined with my grandparents' property. So I can run around in the woods. We have a good running course for training. It's really hilly, but it's close to home, so it's nice."

Why I'm running the Greensboro Half Marathon

"I wasn't really into it until (she and Mark discussed a 13.1 in the summer). And then I was like, maybe I'll do the first two runs and then convince him I won't do anymore. I got to 6 miles. And then my ankle had been bothering me because I didn't have good shoes. Six miles was horrible because I fell at a half-mile and scraped up my knee really bad. And then I got up and finished 6 miles. About a week after that, I got new shoes, and then I decided I was in.

"I just enjoy running. ...

Annabelle Hanson training for Saturday's Greensboro Half Marathon.

"My first goal, probably the easiest one, is to beat my grandfather's (Mike Roberts) fastest half marathon. Because my dad trained my mom and my grandfather at the same time, my grandfather's was two hours and 21 minutes. And when I ran 15 miles (at Salem Lake on Nov. 11), I just barely missed (his pace).

Jessica and Annabelle Hanson at a Women's Only 5K Walk & Run in Greensboro. 

"And my second goal, probably the hardest one, is to beat my mom. She was two hours and 16 minutes."

What's challenging about running

"Sometimes that I don't want to run; not very much. ...

"(Heat can be a factor). It just gets so hot, and it makes me tired. And it makes me not want to run even more. I do better when it's night and there's no sun, and it's cooler, and it's like November."

On my playlist

"The Who ('I Can See for Miles'). What's the 'Runnin' Down a Dream' song (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)?"

Mark adds: "Our inside joke, and he doesn't have a lot of songs that I'll play, but on the eighth mile, she has to listen to Eminem, and he has two songs where he's not as foul-mouthed as a lot of the other ones. So we listen to '8 Mile' and we'll listen to 'Lose Yourself.'

"We listened to Eric Clapton. We listened to Bachman-Turner Overdrive. We listened to Grand Funk Railroad, Peter Frampton. I give her her rock 'n roll education."

A favorite book

"'The Wild Robot' (Peter Brown). It's about a robot that's on an island stranded with a bunch of animals. And it learns how to speak the animal language, and it saves a lot of animals and the animals save it.”

Last race

A fundraiser 5K, Nov. 13 (25:33).

"A week before, I was thinking, 'Well, this is a week before the race, I'll just go slow. I ran the fastest 5K I've ever run. ... Wanting to beat my mom's fastest time. ... I was second, and I got a beautiful piece of pottery."

Goals for 2022

"Running cross country (with Forsyth Home Educators)."

What I've learned about myself through my running

"That I'm stronger than I thought I was. And that if I let my brain get the best of me, I will not want to go on."

Words to the wise

"Make sure you have good shoes."

More about cystic fibrosis

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A retired event ("for now," Mark Hanson says).

From her father

From Annabelle's diagnosis to today

"We had a challenge of a 3-year-old in the hospital for 10 days in 2014. It was looking ugly. I have a stethoscope; I would listen to her lungs. I would hear things that I liken to crumbling a bag of potato chips or something in that sort of container. You hear crackling and bad things. She would cough a lot. She would lose weight. She was very sickly. After that second hospitalization she kind of bounced back.

Annabelle Hanson, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 1 month, during a hopsital stay in 2014 when she was 3 years old.

"But at that point, they said she might live into her 40s. But really, how strong is this little girl going to be? We were fortunate. After that second hospitalization there were a few times she had infections that she'd be treated with oral medicines, but she started getting active. She liked to run with me (Mark was an all-state runner in high school in Ohio). We were out at Salem Lake one time running, and her mom and brother were out there walking, so she came along and cooled down with me. We went a quarter-mile, and I said, 'You want to keep going?' We went a half-mile. She said, 'I want to keep going.' And we ended up doing one mile. She was really young, and I thought, 'This could be something.'

Mark Hanson and his children at a race.

"She's a very active girl. We would try to encourage that by keeping her in sports. She's done swim. She's done soccer. But then this year, I said, 'What do you think about actually training for a race?' Just things fell into place. I said, 'Here's a half marathon plan. What do you think?'

"She has just started this new drug, Trikafta. All of a sudden she's reaping the benefits of this medicine that's gotten rid of that thick and sticky mucous. She's feeling better. Within a few months, she looked up at me and said, 'I'm not coughing anymore.' And it was just a very profound moment because we hadn't heard that CF cough in so long. So we get out there and we start running and she's getting stronger and I'm looking at her paces.

"It's not all about times, but here you had two healthy adults (her mother and grandfather) that put in a (training) program and you have a 10-year-old little girl with a lung disease who's pushing the pace for all of us now, and it's awesome. I never imagined the day would come, quite honestly, after 2014, the year that she was just so sick and things were really looking very bleak for her, that I would be having this discussion with you in 2021. It's amazing how far we've come."

On this race and his role

"It's a big deal. I didn't think we'd be doing this.

"I'll be out there with the water belt, and you might hear me. I'm more of a cheerleader coach. I might be loud; I might play music. I hope it doesn't upset anybody. ...

Annabelle Hanson will be racing for a Greensboro Half Marathon medal on Saturday.

"But she's 10, and I won't be doing this forever. We were over (in Greensboro) when we ran the 13 (miles, in training). And there was a man who was running and passed us and told us we were doing a great job. He said, 'I'm 73 years old.' And we were still going at a good clip. I mean, she's running 10-, 11-minute miles for a 10-year-old; I wouldn't have been doing that. But she quickly did the math in her head and said, 'Well that means you have another 30 years of running with me.' I said, 'I hope.' That'd be nice to be out there and doing what he's doing because he was tooling right along.

Annabelle Hanson training on the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway.

"So if I can run with her 'til she's 40, I'll take it. Because we've had these frank discussions. There was a time we didn't think she'd make 40."