Hitting a ‘marathon milestone’
(Marathon photos by MarathonFoto, party photo by Misbah Mohammed)
CENTRAL, S.C. – Approaching the last stage of a grueling marathon, fighting through her pain amidst a cheering crowd, Rupal Ramesh Shah looked to someone standing along the course holding up a sign emblazoned with the flag of Tanzania, her home country.
“I was so fascinated by the flag, it took me a while to look at the faces of the people holding the sign. The friends were my very own, Swati and Serju, along with their spouses, Shri and Binal. That instantly brought a smile to my face,” Shah said. “The last person I saw on the race course was Rakhee, my cousin. Seeing her gave me that final boost of energy needed to head to the finish line.”
On April 23, Shah, a 2004 Southern Wesleyan University graduate, crossed the finish line in front of London’s iconic Buckingham Palace, completing not only the London Marathon but becoming a Six Star Finisher.
Six Star Finishers are a select group of runners who have completed each of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors. In addition to the London Marathon, the majors include the Boston Marathon, the New York Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, the Berlin Marathon and the Tokyo Marathon.
“For me personally it’s about setting a goal and completing it,” Shah said of the 26.219 mile (42.195 km) race. “I feel like marathon running is not just physical. Obviously, you have to be physically fit and not have any chronic medical conditions. I’m blessed that I don’t have any. Yet on another level I think it tests my inner strength. At mile 18 or mile 20 when it’s so hard to run, I have to mentally say that I’m physically able to complete this.”
Shah first ran the Chicago Marathon in 2008 with Team AIDASHA (www.teamaidasha.org/), a group that trains runners for marathons while raising funds for developmental projects in India.
“It’s a fun way to do something significant,” Shah said.
Upon completing the Chicago Marathon, she learned about the Abbott World Marathon Majors and set out to run each race. She ran the New York Marathon in 2011 and the Berlin Marathon in 2013, where she had her best time, finishing in five hours, 23 mins. and 27 secs.
There was one marathon she entered, but was unable to complete.
On April 15, 2013, Shah was running in the Boston Marathon where the tragic bombing incidents occurred. She remembers being close to the finish line when police officers stopped Shah and other runners. Not yet aware of what had happened, Shah told him “you don’t understand. I’m so close to the finish line.” The policeman then told her “ma’am, people are dead. You need to leave.”
“That’s when the seriousness of the situation occurred to me,” Shah said. Two bombs had been detonated near the finish line, killing three people and injuring hundreds of others, forcing an abrupt, tragic end to the race.
The following year, Shah would complete the Boston Marathon in five hours, 48 minutes and 16 seconds. After a two-year break, she ran the Tokyo Marathon in 2016.
“Running marathons is a great way to see places,” said Shah, adding that she would often travel to a city three or four days before a marathon, then stay a week afterwards for sightseeing.
Excelling academically while enrolled at Southern Wesleyan, Shah benefited from the contagious generosity of professors who cared and provided inventive learning opportunities on an individual level. When the university established its honors program, she became its first graduate.
“What has benefited me a lot are the life lessons from so many people at Southern Wesleyan University – former President Dr. David Spittal, my science professors, Dr. Martin LaBar and Dr. Walt Sinnamon, and people like Dr. Bob Black. You know these people believe in you and you know they are constantly encouraging you,” Shah said.
When she’s not running, Shah is a health care consultant at Boston Children’s Hospital. She also writes for a local newspaper, Spare Change News.
Shah’s new goal is to run a marathon on every continent – even Antarctica! There are a limited number of slots for running at the Antarctica Marathon, but Shah is scheduled to run in 2018. Also on her list is to run marathons in Australia and South America.
Southern Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered, student-focused learning community devoted to transforming lives by challenging students to be dedicated scholars and servant-leaders who impact the world for Christ. For details about degree programs, go online to swu.edu.