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Running, Swimming and Biking to Beijing

Area resident hopes to compete in the 2008 Olympics triathlon.

Someone may confuse Herndon resident Margie Shapiro for a globetrotter. Next weekend she will be in Minneapolis before flying to Austria and then spending some time in Hungary.

"I live minute to minute," said Shapiro, 30. Her travel, however, is far from leisure. Instead, Shapiro will be competing in the physically demanding sport of triathlon.

After a track and cross-country career at Langley High School and Georgetown University, Shapiro decided she wanted to keep competing, but was injury prone. She returned to Langley to teach Spanish and to coach track and cross-country. She began to train on her own for amateur triathlons and in 1999 Shapiro won her division at the Columbia, Md., triathlon. "I won the newbies’ division and fell in love with the sport," she said.

Shapiro fell in love with the sport so much that eight years later she is competing in multiple international races as a professional, hoping to gain as many points as possible in order to earn the right to compete in Olympic qualifying races. Her goal is to compete in the Olympic Games, if not the 2008 Beijing summer games, then the 2012 London games.

"Everybody sort of dreams about the Olympics," said Shapiro.

IT WOULD BE easier for Shapiro to train 15 to 20 hours each week, and spend countless hours recuperating and resting her body, if she was not a mother of two young children, William, 6, and Molly, 3. Her early training schedule, most days begin before 5 a.m., makes it possible to juggle motherhood, athletic ambitions and career — a part owner with her husband, sister and brother-in-law of Potomac River Running stores in Reston Town Center, Ashburn and Burke.

"She can get in a solid block of training before I have to go and open a store," said Brendan Shapiro, 31, Margie’s husband. The two started dating in 10th grade at Langley. Brendan Shapiro said the fact both he and his wife have family in the area also helps with the children. "Trying to fit in the kind of training required at the professional level is difficult," said Brendan Shapiro.

Although the training commitment and international competitions take her away from her loved ones at times, Margie Shapiro has their full support. "I am unbelievably blessed and lucky to have the family I do," she said. Also, she added, the community is behind her. "I feel privileged that all these people around me are supporting me," she said.

Margie Shapiro has also attracted a number of sponsorships that will help pay for her travel arrangements through the qualifying process. Vienna based Acumen Solutions announced in June that it became Margie Shapiro’s first corporate sponsor in her quest for an Olympic dream. Donita Prakash, the company’s marketing director, said the Information Technology company is active in the running community. She said Acumen’s CEO, David Joubran, is a triathlete himself. "Our corporate philosophy is to support excellence in education, athletics and business," said Prakash, adding that supporting community members in those endeavors improves the company’s standing in the community.

Qualifying for the 2008 Olympics will be difficult, but not impossible. The road to Beijing is a complicated one, with three qualifying races scheduled in Beijing, Honolulu and Des Moines. Only three triathletes from the United States will qualify for the Olympics. Shapiro is currently ranked sixth in the country.

"It is definitely a big goal," said Shapiro. "If I qualify [for 2008 Olympics] it is because I have a phenomenal spring next year."