This post originally appeared on News@Northeastern. It was published by Ian Thomsen.

Samira Malik says she will feel nervous for the initial 10 miles on Monday. She tends to relax near the midpoint of a race, though she acknowledges that may be difficult with Heartbreak Hill looming near the end of her debut at the Boston Marathon.

“I don't think I'm marathon-prepared,” admits Malik, executive director of donor strategy and special initiatives at Northeastern. “Training to that distance is different, and I just haven't been on a good training plan. And so I feel a bit nervous because I don't think this is going to be my best race.”

She agreed to take on the 26.2-mile race as a means to provide funding for the John D. O'Bryant African American Institute at Northeastern. Among its many missions, the institute offers scholarships, mentoring and leadership programs, and support of all kinds that deepens a sense of community among Black students.

“When the opportunity to raise money for the institute came up, I couldn't say no,” she says.

At least 11 members of the Northeastern community will be running the 126th Boston Marathon to raise money for a variety of good causes. The event creates an enormous windfall for charities: At the most recent Boston Marathon last October, $26.6 million was raised by 2,106 runners representing more than 200 nonprofit organizations.

Inspired by Malik's efforts, the African American Institute hosted a lunchtime rally Thursday to honor the Northeastern runners. A pasta lunch (heavy on carbohydrates) was served.

“It's a personal commitment—you have to really be committed—and doing it for a cause adds to that,” Richard O'Bryant, director of the institute, says of his motivation for celebrating the runners. (The institute is named after his father, the former vice president of student affairs at Northeastern who, in 1977, became the first Black person to be elected to Boston's school committee.)

Every marathoner is driven by personal goals and needs. Malik happens to be a late bloomer. Though she didn't compete in track in high school, she had always been drawn to running. 

“In 2013, as I was going through a divorce and trying to pull myself out of the whirlwind of life that was happening, I started working out,” says Malik, who was working at that time in Alexandria, Virginia. 

A friend suggested they run a 5-kilometer race. When that went well, they moved on to the Reggae Half-Marathon in Jamaica.

“I'm naive. I think I can get out there and do it,” Malik says. “Long story short, it was one of the toughest things I had ever done because I didn't train for it. But mentally I pushed myself through that race. 

“Running gave me a belief in myself that I didn't have until that moment,” she says. “And I've been running ever since.”

Malik, who routinely puts in five miles a day first thing in the morning, is halfway through her long-term goal of competing in full or half-marathons in all 50 states. Her self-described “love-hate relationship with running” has led her to complete four marathons: Two in Chicago and one each in New York and Dallas. 

“I think Boston is going to be my last full marathon,” she says. “Although I love running, I'm going to stick to the half-marathons. The pavement is becoming brutal to my knees, but I don't want to quit running. I just know that 26 miles is physically tearing me up.”

She is running on behalf of the John D. O'Bryant African American Institute because she relates to its many missions, including the support it provides to students. Malik recalls having to sit out a year of college because she couldn't afford tuition.

“I know the burden of needing support,” says Malik, who graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's in psychology (and added a master's in data analytics in 2018). “I probably missed some opportunities because I was simply treading water financially just to get there. I know what that feels like as a minority student to try and navigate our way through the opportunity to get an education.”

The higher calling of raising funds for the institute will inspire her as she approaches Heartbreak Hill on her way into Boston, she believes.

“What a great race to finish my journey,” she says of her final marathon. “I'm a bit anxious. But I'm going to get out there and do my best.”

The following runners are known to be racing for charity at the Boston Marathon on Monday (with links to their fundraising pages):