UNM Law Student Athena Shapiro Competes in Half Ironman

November 1, 2021

Athena Shapiro, young woman wearing athletic clothing and a hat kneeling and making a #1 sign with one hand
Athena Shapiro poses after winning first place in the Cochiti Lake Triathlon.

Between balancing law school and work, Athena Shapiro (’22) chose to take on one more challenge – Ironman training. Most recently, Shapiro competed in the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship race, a half Ironman in St. George, Utah consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run. Her next feat is another half Ironman event in Oceanside, California Saturday, October 30, 2021.

She isn’t done there. She will be racing in the full 2021 Ironman World Championship race in May 2022, which is double the distance at 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and ending with a 26.2-mile run. She will then graduate with her J.D. only one week later.

This year she also earned fourth place in the Santa Fe Century, her first only bike race, and finished in first place at the local Cochiti Lake Triathlon in August.

Training for intense races takes extreme discipline and dedication. Shapiro said her days start around 4:00 a.m. beginning with her first workout of the day. Next is reading for classes, attending classes, her second workout, more reading for classes, and between all of that, work. Rounding out each day with a 7:00 p.m. bed time. On average she said she spends about 20 hours a week training for races with direction from her coach.

Athena Shapiro, young woman wearing athletic clothing and sunglasses smiles and she runs across the finish line
Athena Shapiro crosses the finish line with a time of 5 hours and 52 minutes at the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship race in St. George, Utah in September.

She said her interest in racing came about as a young child when she would visit her grandparents in Hawaii and her mother spun stories about people who swim from one island to the next. This inspired her to sign up for her first triathlon at 16 years old, and although she said she walked the entire running leg, she fell in love with the sport. She has now completed about 20 triathlons and averages a 5-and-a-half-hour race time although she is hoping to reach a sub 5-hour time.

Before one race is done, Shapiro said she has already signed up for another one. She loves the process of training and the anticipation leading up to race day. She enjoys switching gears from exercising the brain at school and work to training for races.

She said all this is made possible with the support of her professors and fellow students. For any athletes considering law school, she said UNM is the perfect school because of the training opportunities in Albuquerque and the supportive community. 

In May she will be graduating with her J.D. and wants to pursue a career in the New Mexico Environment Department or the Department of Interior, both of which she has interned for. And of course, training for more races.