As a teen, Rajpaul Pannu turned to running to lose the weight put on by hot Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Now, he’s a 2:17 marathoner.

By Taylor Dutch, Runners World

When Rajpaul Pannu teaches his 9th grade class, he wants them to learn more than just geometry and basic math skills. Working at a public charter school in Hayward, California, Pannu wants his students to believe they can thrive, just as he did.

“I’m able to relate to the group of kids that I teach,” Pannu told Runner’s World. “And be at least a vessel to tell them that they definitely can succeed.”

Growing up in Hercules, California, a city just outside of the San Francisco Bay, Pannu used running as a way to forge his own path. Today, as he’s balancing a career as a teacher and a marathon runner, that path has led to a spot on the starting line of the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials.

At the 2017 California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento, the 28-year-old HOKA One One Aggies Running Club standout made his 26.2-mile debut in 2:17:06, placing 19th overall. The performance marked a significant victory in a career shaped by Pannu’s drive to push his limits even through the most difficult circumstances.

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