Sometimes height is just a number.
On Monday, 2009 Engineering and Wharton graduate Danh Trang became one of the first dwarfs to complete the Boston Marathon. Standing at 4-foot-2, Trang has been training for the race for months. He ate roughly 4,000 calories and ran about two hours each day while training.
Though physically active his entire life, Trang — who was in the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology at Penn — has never considered himself a runner and had never run a marathon until last year. He initially decided to train for and complete the Boston Marathon after attending the race last year, when two bombs were set off in a terrorist attack that killed three and injured more than 250 others.
Though he was only there to support family and friends running the race, Trang remembers the day as “chaotic” and “traumatic.”
“It was a beautiful, perfect day. Everyone was just happy to be there, and then things turned so quickly. People were terrified, and I didn’t know if my family was OK,” he said. “But at the same time, everyone really came together. It was an incredible thing to see, and that’s when I decided that this was something I wanted to do.”
With the marathon now a symbol of national resilience and pride, this year’s race was filled with incredible energy, Trang said. “The overall atmosphere was amazing. You could tell this was something the city was excited about. Kids lined up along the streets to high-five the runners, and people flew in from all over the world to participate,” he said. More than 36,000 people signed up for the race this year — 10,000 more than last year.
“I remember meeting this one woman on the bus to the race, and it was her second Boston Marathon. She said she had run 18 years ago, but after last year, she decided she had to come back,” he said.
In addition to completing the race on Monday with a time of five hours and 36 minutes, Trang also used the opportunity to raise money for a charity called Little People of America. Setting an initial goal of $5,000, Trang has now raised over $14,000 for LPA.
Since his childhood, Trang has worked with LPA, which is a nonprofit specifically devoted to providing medical resources and support systems to families of people afflicted with dwarfism.
Growing up, Trang faced challenges that most children didn’t, and LPA helped him overcome many struggles.
“When I was little, I wanted to play in a soccer league, but the coaches wouldn’t let me play unless I signed a waiver saying they weren’t responsible for my health because they were so afraid of me getting hurt. I reached out to LPA and they helped me get a spot on the team — and I never signed the waiver,” he said.
“I really loved playing soccer, so obviously that was important, but even more than that, LPA taught me to stand up for what is right and to fight for what I believe in,” he added.
In order to run in the Boston Marathon, runners must qualify with a certain time. Men without impairments who are Trang’s age must complete a qualifying marathon in under three hours and five minutes, and people who fall into the mobility-impaired group must have a time under six hours. If a runner fails to meet the qualifying time, he or she can run for a charity instead.
Though Trang did not technically need to raise money for a charity — because he completed a qualifying marathon in Ventura, Calif., in five hours and 42 minutes — he decided to do so anyway. “LPA is a cause that has been near and dear to my heart for a long time. I figured, why not use this opportunity to give something back to them?”
Sameer Kirtane, a 2009 Management and Technology alum who was Trang’s roommate for their junior and senior years at Penn, spoke to Trang’s ability to inspire and overcome his disability. “When Danh told me he was running the marathon, I wasn’t even a little bit surprised. This is just the next thing in a long line of incredible success he’s had over the years.”
“When we were roommates at Penn, it wasn’t that he didn’t face difficulties, it was just that he didn’t let his disability enter his consciousness,” Kirtane said. “It was almost like it wasn’t present in his mind, so it wasn’t present in anyone else’s.”
Since graduating from Penn with degrees, Trang has worked with Citigroup and the hedge fund Bridgewater. He has remained active in the Penn community, conducting alumni interviews with prospective students. He will be back on campus next month for his five-year reunion.Comments powered by Disqus
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