Local Student Completes First Marathon

Local Student Completes First Marathon
At 12 years old, Aryavir Sangwan was the youngest competitor in last week’s Rehoboth Seashore Marathon. Submitted Photo

BERLIN – A local middle school student accomplished something many runners only dream of last weekend as he completed the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon.

Aryavir Sangwan, a student at Stephen Decatur Middle School, finished the 26.2-mile race with a time of 5:24:28. At 12 years old, he was the youngest runner in the race.

“For most people, the distance requires maximum effort and discipline,” Sangwan said. “I wanted to know if I had that willpower and discipline in me.”

Sangwan has been running since he was five. He’s a regular competitor in Salisbury’s Tim Kennard River Run and has also competed in the Across the Bay 10K. Last year, he competed in the Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon, finishing 10th among all contestants younger than 19.

This year, Sangwan decided he wanted to aim for the full marathon. He started preparing in June, running between three and six miles most weekdays and running longer distances with his mother on the weekends in an effort to build up to the 26.2-mile race distance.

His parents said that while they were initially concerned about whether he could handle such a long distance at such a young age, they researched the issue and decided to support his desire to compete.

“We learned that injuries in long-distance races happen when you take on a time or distance challenge that is well beyond your current level of training,” said Sangwan’s father, Yashvir, a physician at Peninsula Regional Medical Center. “Arya had logged, as per our estimate, 500 miles in actual long-distance races/long distance practice runs before taking on this full marathon.”

They also made him promise that he wouldn’t run through any pain.

“The best thing is, no one was pushing him,” his father said. “This was something he wanted to do. There was no goal date, goal time. That was the main reason he did this injury-free.”

Aryavir Sangwan finished the marathon in eighth place in his age group, runners under 19 years old. Looking back, he said the marathon proved easier than his training had been.

“The training was very difficult,” he said. “The marathon itself was easy as it was the culmination of hard work over the past six months.”

Nevertheless, he’s thrilled with the fact that he was able to do it.

“It is one of the proudest achievements of my life,” he said.

Sangwan says he enjoys running because it’s more about mental toughness than physical strength.

“You need to overcome the physical fatigue and overwhelming thought of running that far,” he said. “Once you achieve a challenging goal, it makes you feel like a special person.”

His parents were happy to encourage his interest in running. As his hobbies have changed through the years — chess, drums, fishing and sailing — they’ve supported each of them, happy to promote anything that kept him from too much Internet and television.

“He’s always had our support,” Yashvir Sangwan said. “With running, the only real expense is a pair of good shoes. We don’t have to drive him anywhere except on race days. We did not need a coach. It worked out well for our busy family.”

The Sangwans have watched running instill a new confidence in their son and believe it’s shown him how hard work pays off. Yashvir Sangwan said his son first came up with the idea of completing a marathon after a family discussion.

“We were trying to teach the children that the one basic thing anyone needs to succeed in this world is grit,” he said. “The ability to labor at a lofty goal with everything you’ve got until you achieve it.”

Their 12-year-old did just that.

“For Arya this was never about running,” his father said. “It was about proving to himself that he has the capacity to formulate a goal, make a long-term plan and go through with it. Now he knows he can apply that to any issue in life.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.