Houston Marathon Wows Sewa International Volunteers, Runners

Over 100 Sewa volunteers helped along Mile 8 Mega Refueling Station serving the thirsty runners.

HOUSTON: While the Indian American community was celebrating the winter festivals of Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri, and others, a few from the community geared up to participate and volunteer for the 51st Chevron Houston Marathon held on Sunday, January 15. The marathon attracted over 27,000 participants, and broke the previous records set by runners. Participants from all the 50 states and more than a dozen countries met to run across Houston. More than forty members of Sewa International’s SELF (Sleep, Exercise,

Living in the present, Food and diet) program (www.sewausa.org/self) completed the full/half marathons. Some of them recorded their personal best time, and many of these were first time runners.

Sewa runners at a group photo before the start of the marathon.

Over one hundred Sewa volunteers helped along the Mile 8 Mega Refueling Station serving the thirsty runners.
More than fifty of these volunteers were high school and middle school students, and their energy and enthusiasm were on full display. The runners not only got water and energy drinks but also much energy and love. Bollywood music was played to pump runners that passed by.

Volunteers take a selfie on the marathon course.

Nayonika Pande, a sophomore at Elkins High School and a long time Sewa volunteer, said she woke up early and was out the door at 5 am to drive from Sugar Land to be at the Sewa Mile 8 Refueling Station to support the runners. “It was a beautiful morning with the temperature in the 60s; and perfect weather for running. I enjoyed helping, encouraging, and cheering the participants. I enjoyed this volunteering opportunity and saw a marathon for the first time in my life; the support and happiness we all had for each other was amazing,” she said.

Shoumili Chowdhury, a freshman from Clements High School, who also volunteered said, “Even though I was on the sidelines, I was still able to experience the marathon as if I was truly running. I may not have been as sweaty of course but talking with others and exchanging a few words was enough for me to enjoy the marathon. I will never forget the type of people I saw running, from a person wearing a pickle costume to a woman with one arm. I very much enjoyed encouraging and cheering for these people.”

Like all the other volunteers, two high school students, Divya and Tara, were ready before the pickup time of 4.30 AM. They both were full of energy and stayed enthusiastic until we finished the event at 10:30 AM.

Shanti Thangavel and Pranav Patankar, our SELF leads completed the full marathon and recorded their personal best time. Mahesh Bhat, Sewa International’s SELF program lead and half marathon participant said, “This was an opportunity for us to showcase our commitment to being healthy, offering support to those who want to commit to a more balanced lifestyle, and what we can do and achieve from being actively involved and taking care of our health”.
Bharathraj Hassan and Santosh Jha, Sewa International’s volunteer captain for the event, said, “It was a joy to train and work with so many of our young and older volunteers. Many have already signed up for the 2024
Houston Marathon and we will surely have more runners and more volunteers from Sewa participating next year”.

About Sewa International
Sewa International, a leading Hindu faith-based Indian American nonprofit organization with 43 Chapters in twenty-five US States, has extensive experience in disaster rescue, relief, and rehabilitation operations having
responded to 25 disasters in the US and abroad. Since early 2020, Sewa International has been in the forefront in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2017, after Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston area, Sewa volunteers helped in the rescue of nearly 700 people and have served thousands of affected families since then through their case management services. Sewa raised over $3 million for Hurricane Harvey recovery.