Edison’s Stephanie Zundel, blind since age 3, finishes Boston Marathon
BOSTON — Edison native Stephanie Zundel, blind since the age of 3, completed the Boston Marathon on Monday with a time of 5 hours, 9 minutes, 55 seconds.
"I feel very accomplished. It was a great race. My guides and I did such good team work and we accomplished what we wanted to," 22-year-old Stephanie Zundel told New Jersey 101.5.
A senior at Vanderbilt University who only began running a year ago, Zundel qualified for the Marathon after a time of 4 hours, 50 minutes, in the New York City Marathon in 2016. Her father, Chuck Zundel, is a 17-year-veteran of the Edison Police Department and led the "Team Stephanie" delegation in Boston.
"They were awesome. They drove to Boston from New Jersey, my mom, dad, my two sisters and my brother with the support and help of the Edison Police Department. They came last night and and we spent Easter together in Boston," Stephanie Zundel said, adding that they watched the Marathon from mile 17 in Newton.
"They cheered me on and it was amazing," she said.
Stephanie Zundel said the race was challenging but "crossing that finish line and getting the medal — all the hard work paid off and it was such a great experience."
"She did great," Achilles International Executive Director Carrie Redmon told New Jersey 101.5, adding that her finishing time was a little slower than her New York City Marathon qualifying time of 4 hours, 50 minutes last fall. "The heat was a really big factor in today's race, which is usually not the case with the Boston Marathon."
New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said the temperature was around around 70 degrees at the start of the race in Hopkinton and climbed to about 74-75 degrees as the fastest runners crossed the finish line in the early afternoon, almost 20 degrees above normal for mid-April in the Boston area.
"The runners benefited from a brisk wind at their back throughout the race — a 'tailwind' — gusting at times over 25 mph," Zarrow said.
Achilles International, a running group for people with disabilities, sponsored Stephanie Zundel in the race. She ran with volunteer guides Amy Harris and Harvey Freeman. She credits Achilles with helping her get over her fear of running she developed in high school.
As a teen, she didn't run races but trained with the track team in order to be part of a team sport. Friends acted as her guide, Stephanie Zundel said.
"They totally meant well and we had plenty of moments that were great. But there were a few times crazy things happened, like I got crushed into a pole. One of my friends said to go forward and I started running but she meant move over to the side, so I ran off the track and into the bleachers. So I started to fear running."
Some friends asked Stephanie to try running again in the Country Music Half-Marathon in Nashville, which is when she joined Achilles International.
"Achilles is just such a great family. We all love each and have formed such wonderful friendships with my guides and the other athletes. No one judges anyone. We all want to get to the finish line no matter how we have to get there we do it."
Described by Redmon as inspirational and Patrick Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association, as someone who accomplishes what she puts her mind to. After the race, Culligan tweeted "Look up INSPIRATION, this officer's daughter, who is blind, is it."
Stephanie said she leads her life by the philosophy that "disabilities don't disable people. They enable you to do things in different ways. Yes, it might take you longer and you might have to use different mechanism to help you, but that shouldn't hold you back from anything."
"You can accomplish whatever you want, whatever you have your heart and mind set to, no matter how many people tell you can't do it that's definitely not true," she said.
Next up for Stephanie Zundel, after her graduation in May with a child studies degree, is the Disneyland Half-Marathon in California on Labor Day, the Achilles Hope and Possibilities Race in October in Nashville and the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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