EDISON — A Central Jersey woman's 26 miles from Hopkinton to Boston for Monday's Boston Marathon will be notable because of one significant difference: she is blind.

Stephanie Zundel, an Edison resident and a senior at Vanderbilt University, will run the marathon for the first time after qualifying with a time of 4 hours, 50 minutes in the New York Marathon. She will be one of 13 visually impaired runners out of 30,000 in the 120th running of the 26.2-mile course. She will run the course with the rest of the non-elite women's field at 11:15 a.m. wearing bib number 25140.

"Nothing stops my daughter. Nothing sets her back. Stephanie has been that way since childhood, making my wife Kimberly and I extremely proud each step of the way," said her father, Charles Zundel, who is a 17-year veteran Edison police officer.

The Edison PBA has been supportive of "Team Stephanie," and has held fundraisers to help get Stephanie and her family to Boston for Race Day.

Volunteers Amy Harris and Harvey Freeman of Achilles International, a running group for people with disabilities, will run the race with Zundel. Achilles executive director Carrie Redmon told New Jersey 101.5 they ran the New York Marathon with her as well.

"She joined our Achilles chapter a year ago," Redmon said. "She had never even run before until a year ago. She started coming, and she's really good, and she's really fast and here we are. She's running the Boston Marathon."

Boston Marathon finish line,
Boston Marathon finish line (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Patrick Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policeman's Benevolent Association, said he presented Stephanie Zundel with a PBA college scholarship.

"She's accomplished more and does it better than many of us that can see. The moment you meet her you know that she will do anything she sets her mind to do. She's a model for those of us who procrastinate or think that something is out of reach. I can guarantee you this won't be the last time you will be hearing about Stephanie," Colligan said.

It has been a busy couple of days for the 22-year-old, who graduates with honors in May with a degree in child studies, and flew to Boston from Nashville on Saturday after defending her thesis on Friday.

Redmon said she found out how competitive Zundel is when they took a boxing class together. The first time they entered the ring, Redmon said, "'I'm probably going to have to give her a lot of verbal cues. I'm not really sure how this will go.' She killed it! She needed no help. It was the craziest thing ever."

Redmon called Zundel inspiring and a joy to be around.

"Everyone in our chapter is so proud of her. We're all excited to watch her complete the Marathon today," Redmon said.

According to her Achilles biography, Stephanie Zundel became blind at the age of three when she had an allergic reaction to Children's Motrin and was stricken with the sickness called Stevens Johnson Syndrome.

"SJS is a condition where the immune system turns on itself and burns the body from the inside out. Although blindness can sometimes be a pain, it has not stopped me from anything I set my mind and heart to," Stephanie wrote in her bio.

"I cannot think of a more amazing young person to represent Edison Township in the Boston Marathon. When Stephanie sets her mind to something, she is unstoppable," Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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