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Shawanda Weems: Making Herself a Priority

For 18 years, Shawanda Weems has made her students’ academic and athletic performance her number-one priority. 

In 2012, she was honored by the White House for her work in establishing NYRR’s Mighty Milers youth running program at P.S./M.S. 15 in the Bronx, where before her tenure, a basketball team was students’ only option for being active outside of gym class. 

Still, as the eighth grade English teacher and Mighty Milers supervisor worked tirelessly to prepare kids for a healthy future, she let her own lifestyle take a backseat; Weems was diagnosed with diabetes in 2004 and continues to take medication to treat it. 

But this year, as a 40th birthday present to herself, Weems is turning her focus inward. “I’m taking my commitment to others and translating that to me,” she says. “I want to be the role model that my students see in me that at times, I do not see in myself.” 

She’s taken the final steps to get off her medicine—and the first steps toward becoming a marathoner. “I can feel the change, I can see the change, and I’m happy with it,” she says. 

On November 6, Weems will run the TCS New York City Marathon, her first 26.2-miler, alongside former student Kiara Fernandez. Weems coached Fernandez when she was on the fifth-grade track team. Today, Fernandez attends Weems’ alma mater, Binghamton University. 

Though Weems describes herself as a “very leisurely” runner, she’s no stranger to the marathon course. “My students and I have always done a cheer zone in Harlem to support the Team for Kids runners who financially support our program,” she says. 

This year, Weems will be on the receiving end of those smiles and high-fives: “I’m looking forward to the sense of accomplishment I’ll feel doing something for me, from start to finish.” 

By Hollis Templeton

GET YOUR STORIES ON. Read more inspiring stories from runners chronicling their journeys to the TCS New York City Marathon starting line.

TUNE IN. The 2016 TCS New York City Marathon will be televised live on Sunday, November 6, on WABC-TV, Channel 7 in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET, and for the rest of the nation on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.