Guest Blog: Written by Fozia Roked, paediatrician interested in high dependency care, mum, born and bred in Birmingham. Interests: human factors in NHS, baking, war journalism, sports.
6 months ago, we brainstormed ideas for a ladies challenge to raise money for The Olton Project. We had some doubts; how many people would actually sign up, how high do we set our fundraising target, the list went on.
When I first moved to Solihull, I remember wishing to my husband, I had more friends to run with so I wouldn’t feel so conscious tagging along with all men to race events. Then, my dear friend Huda made a huge lifestyle change, despite having 3 (now 4) children, and got into fitness. Every community needs a ‘Huda’. A social butterfly who can bring people together, inject positivity and lead by example. I remember May saying to us ‘ you guys are runners, I can’t run’. When you have someone like Huda who is living proof of going from not running to being a regular runner, you can convince someone like May. And then May can convince 2 other people, who convinces 5 other people, and so the self-belief spreads.
By the grace of Allah, we had the perfect person to guide complete beginners to become 5 and 10k runners, Afsha! Her experience and knowledge really got the ladies believing they could reach their goal, in a safe, fun way. Not many communities have the privilege of accessing a holistic personal trainer, face to face, not just virtually.
So within a few months, the running bug caught on, and we had 20+ women raring to run for The Olton Project. This number continued to grow and was more like 30 by race day, Subhanallah!
It was fantastic to read and watch people’s progress evolve over the months. This journey was about people having enough confidence, motivation and consistency in training, to progress from perhaps never running or walking much at all to embracing the positive effects of outdoors, movement and the beautiful endorphin release post exercise.
Prior to having my baby, I was so focused on constantly achieving more (both fitness, work and home life) I vividly remember at 5 weeks post C-section running with Zayd in the pram, and being devastated how long it took me to run a few kilometres. I was determined to get fitness back and signed myself up far too prematurely for a half marathon. I was frustrated why my body still wasn’t moving like it used to. Ridiculous, I know. Then I had a conversation with Afsha. She simply said to me ‘stop doing, doing, doing. Listen to your body’. And she was so right, I had to change my mindset. Up until then, I failed to appreciate the important things in life. Just taking time to tune into and appreciate your body and to cut yourself some slack!
This group run came at the right time for me. I don’t think before a baby I would have completely understood why running 5k is actually a big deal to new runners. But through ‘re-training’ my post pregnancy body, I had a better understanding. I also appreciated that motherhood presents challenges; sleep deprivation, pumping milk before you run, finding people to leave your baby with, and then stepping away from the guilt of leaving your baby. But what does motherhood give you? An amazing reason to keep fit, perspective and an appreciation for ‘you time.’
As race day approached, the group was buzzing. Everybody had hit their target distance and we were all rooting for each other. We were still a way off our fundraising target though which was a little anxiety provoking. But by the grace of Allah, the money just poured in within the last few weeks and we surpassed our target. When intentions are pure, and we set out to do something for the sake of Allah, then Allah will do the rest.
On race day, you could sense the nerves and self-doubt. For a lot of ladies, this was the first race event they had done. However, there was a buzz and contentment that we had raised the money, done the training and now just needed to smash it! And smash it we did! Everybody gave it 100%, cheered each other on, nailed their personal bests and most importantly smiled through it all!
The community spirit was palpable and it was so heart-warming, every runner was cheered to the finish line. You could sense for a lot of ladies this had been an emotional journey. Something they wouldn’t have done without the support of other women. Something they never thought they could do.
For me, it was probably one of my favourite runs. I wasn’t nervous because I wasn’t aiming for a PB. I just wanted to motivate my friends to the finish line. The feeling of encouraging other people to fulfil their potential is much stronger than fulfilling your own goals. I was so happy for these amazing ladies and the journey they had come on.
Everybody had achieved so much. There was one very modest person who has inspired me. An example and inspiration to us all. I don’t have the privilege of knowing many people like her. She has undergone major heart surgery requiring intensive care. Her self-determination and discipline is incredible. She has gone from not running at all, to smashing the 10k and completely changing her lifestyle habits, whilst balancing a heavy work schedule and raising children. Her modesty of her achievements and purity in intentions is inspirational. I remember her saying to me, when she left intensive care, the thing she worried about most was ‘how do I repay Allah for giving me this health’. Subhanallah, what amazing deen.
And that sums it up, we are so privileged to have bodies that allow us to even move independently, see, hear, never mind run. We have some dear friends in our community who would have loved to participate in the run, but they are in some very difficult circumstances and their priorities lie with caring for others. May Allah ease their situations and reward their patience.
So let us make the most of our health and time whilst we have it, respect our bodies, keep moving, in whatever form, running, swimming, or just playing rough and tumble with our kids. Hopefully, all the ladies who did this run, will keep doing some form of exercise that brings them joy and most importantly, inspires their children.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
By Fozia Roked