Alum competes in New York City Marathon
Each year, thousands of runners complete the grueling 26.2 mile New York City Marathon, but a Southern Wesleyan University alumna added another distinction to her achievement of completing the race that took place Nov. 6.
Running in a major marathon is nothing new to Rupal Shah, a 2004 Southern Wesleyan chemistry/biology graduate. She ran her first marathon in 2008 in Chicago. But this year in addition to running the marathon, Shah represented her home country as an official delegate.
In addition to running 26.2 miles in the marathon, Shah bore the flag for Tanzania in the Parade of Nations at the opening ceremony of the marathon. She was proud to represent the country where she was born and grew up until her family moved to the United States when she was 16.
Race day started early for Shah, who boarded a bus at 5 a.m. to Staten Island. When she arrived, she was among 47,438 runners of all ages and nationalities. Being cheered on by friends and family throughout the course motivated Shah to complete the marathon route, which included uphill grades on two bridges. She also had a bag of gummy worms to sustain her as she ran the course.
“As I entered Manhattan after mile 16, I was feeling exhausted – not physically but mentally,” she said. Although the last miles were brutal, the last three miles through Central Park were the best part of the race for Shah.
“I dedicated mile 24 to my good friend, Neelu, who passed away this year battling cancer. I dedicated mile 25 and 26 to my parents who have always made me believe in myself,” Shah said. “My finish time was 5:39, exactly one minute more than my finish time for the Chicago marathon in 2008.”
Running to support Team for Kids, Shah raised more than the minimum $2,620 amount needed for the New York-based charity to help sustain activities for children in low-income schools. Running for Team for Kids is important to Shah, who also volunteers at a local children’s shelter in Boston.
“I enjoy working with children,” Shah said, adding that Team for Kids has a positive impact on children who need constant encouragement as they grow and learn. Her passion to help children succeed grows in part from the encouragement she received when she attended Southern Wesleyan.
“SWU made me believe in myself. The professors and staff members at SWU made me realize that the sky is the limit when you want to follow your dreams,” said Shah, adding that her professors instilled in her the importance of hard work as she pursued her academic and professional goals.
Shah is currently the laboratory manager in Dr. Sarah Fortune’s tuberculosis lab in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard School of Public Health.