New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

NYU Drama student takes on the New York City Marathon for a cause

Hanna Mandel balances school, acting and marathon training to support the March of Dimes, a charity with personal importance.
Hanna Mandel, senior at Tisch School of the Arts and marathon runner. (Courtesy of Hannah Mandel)

Hanna Mandel is a senior at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts studying drama and, for the past several months, training for a daunting challenge: running the New York City Marathon on Nov. 5.

Mandel grew up staying active as a competitive travel volleyball player, but she started seriously training as a runner for the first time during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. At first, she couldn’t run for 20 minutes straight. As she started to build up the miles, she decided to run her first race. Instead of signing up for a 5K like most beginner runners, Mandel jumped straight to a half marathon.

“My first race was the New York City Half Marathon last year and I was like ‘I’ll walk half of it. I’ll see what happens,” Mandel said. “But the energy on that day was so different than what you prepared for. I was like ‘I could run ten more miles — I’m fine. What if I ran the marathon?’”

The New York City Marathon is more than a culmination of Mandel’s running journey so far — it’s also a moment for her to give back to a charity that helped save her life. When she was born prematurely at 25 weeks, Mandel weighed one pound and 13 ounces. She spent three months in the neonatal intensive care unit and was given a 50% chance of survival. As she grew, her family became involved with the nonprofit March of Dimes, which raises awareness for premature births and advocates for mother and child healthcare.

She’s been a member of March of Dimes her whole life, and now, she’s a part of their “Run for Babies NYC” team at the New York City Marathon. So far, she’s raised more than $4,000.

“Ultimately, that’s the only thing I care about,” Mandel said. “I don’t care if it takes me three hours or six hours to finish. I want to do it for the organization and for the fun of it.”

But the training has been tough. Mandel has run two half marathons, but when her long weekend runs started stretching into the 17-mile range to prepare for the 26.2-mile race, she felt a bit daunted by the length.

“I learned to start breaking it down. I’ve run 13 miles so many times and 17 is really only four on top of that,” Mandel said with a laugh. “Breaking it down like that made it more tolerable.”

She’s dealt with some injuries during the training, including a back injury last month that sidelined her for three weeks. 

“If I get back into it too quickly, I might not be able to run the marathon, so right now I’m just trying to stay in the mindset of healing,” Mandel said. “I wasn’t used to running one day and then waking up the next and feeling like shit. I had to really learn how to prioritize my body. That’s definitely the biggest lesson I’ve learned.”

Then, of course, there is the talent of balancing school on top of training for a marathon — although Mandel doesn’t necessarily see that as a challenge. She’s graduating this winter, but as she recovers from her injury, she’s enjoyed running before classes. She’s found that it helps her memorize her lines and focus on the day ahead of her. 

Now that Mandel is easing back into her training with the marathon about a month out, she feels the excitement building. 

“I’m doing this for a charity I love,” Mandel said. “I’m in the wave with all the other people running for charity. It’s just going to be fun energy walking, running, whatever.”

Mandel’s not sure about what her future marathon journey looks like. 

“Maybe Berlin? I don’t know,” she said.

For now, she’s enjoying the moment and the finish line in front of her.

Contact Avery Hendrick at [email protected].

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    BarryOct 5, 2023 at 12:23 pm

    What a Fantastic story. She is so inspiring and AMAZING!!!!!