Indian American dentist ran 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents


Dr. Raj Patel

Indian American dentist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dr. Raj Patel, 50, has joined an elite group of people who have done the unimaginable in the world of running: competing and successfully finishing the Word Marathon Challenge, where one has to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

What’s more, after Patel finished the seventh and last marathon, in Sydney, Australia, last Sunday, he was back in his Tulsa clinic on Tuesday to see patients. And of course, he put in a simple five-mile run before he saw those patients.

The World Marathon Challenge was rewarding but “probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, mentally, emotionally, physically … and financially, too,” Patel was quoted as saying by Tulsa World. The trip cost him about $50,000. “In hindsight, it’s surreal. And it was an incredible experience. I just want to thank Jesus for allowing me to do it,” he added.

Patel was born in Zambia, Africa, to Indian parents and came to the United States in 1980 for college, enrolling at the University of Tulsa when he was 14 years old. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma dental school in 1992 and law school in 2001, and he has been in dental practice for 26 years.

What’s also amazing is that Patel took to running only six years ago, at the age of 44. And there’s no running genes either in the family history to suggest what transformed Patel to one of the greatest Indian-origin runners of all time.

After Patel took to running it became a passion for him, as is evident from the fact that he has been participating in the Boston Marathon, and was there in 2013 when terrorists bombings killed three and injured hundreds. He has run 92 marathons since 2011, including the seven last week.

And Patel might not even have got a chance to compete in the World Marathon Challenge after a freak accident last January nearly ended his running career. He was at his clinic at 101st Street and Memorial Drive when a driver passed out at the wheel and accelerated a car into the building, knocking down three walls and two dental chairs before smashing into him, badly damaging his knee. For six weeks, he was unable to bend his knee or walk.

But by spring, Patel was again running marathons, a rapid recovery he attributed to rigorous therapy and prayer. Patel learned about the World Marathon Challenge from a patient. Though initially he thought it was an impossible feat to achieve, he went ahead and signed up for it and began training last summer and fall.

The first race was Jan. 23 in Union Glacier, Antarctica. He and the other runners slept in tents and sleeping bags in the days of preparation before the race. On the day of the race, the temperature was -30 degrees, and the wind was more than 30 miles per hour, he said in an interview to Tulsa World. He finished eighth, in 4 hours, 12 minutes.

The runners immediately boarded a plane, flew to Punta Arenas, Chile, rested five hours, and raced again.

Then they, including Patel, raced in Miami, Florida; Madrid, Spain; Marrakech, Morocco; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Sydney, Australia. Patel ranked eighth in overall time among the 31 men and women participants.

His most enjoyable race, he said, was Madrid: perfect weather and beautiful countryside. The worst was Dubai, with temperatures in the 90s.

On his final race in Sydney, Patel was surprised by his wife, Kalpana, and son, Syon, 16, and some members of his church, Bridge Church in Bixby, who were in that part of the world on a missions trip.