My Running Truth: Part 2 Meet Asmaa

We are constantly inspired by all the women that make up this beautifully strong women’s running community. It’s the common goals and challenges that all women runners face that brings connection and understanding. Runners come in many different shapes, sizes, colors, and more. We believe in learning more about all women’s journeys and finding the way our similarities and differences both bring us together and make us unique.  We are inspired by the women who believe change needs to happen in the sport and who are paving the way to educate and bring awareness to race and stigmas. While we are all learning more about each other every day, we ask you to bring love and support and drop judgment as our next blog series features 3 women who share their running truth. 

Meet Asmaa. She has done She.is.beautiful a few years now and we want to know more about her. Check out her journey below and how her faith has influenced her running.

She.is.beautiful: How did you get into running?

Asmaa: I was never very active growing up due to my asthma. When I graduated from college, I was so out of shape; and I really wanted to find something I could commit to long term to get fit. My sister suggested running. I discovered the Couch to 5k program in 2012, it trains you to run 5k in the span of 8 weeks. Shortly after running my first 5k, I trained for a 10k, and then my first half marathon. I ran a couple half marathons before making the commitment to train for a marathon. And I ran my first marathon in February 2016.

SIB: Where did the best run of your life (so far!) take place?

A: In Egypt, along the Mediterranean Sea right before sunset.

SIB: Favorite post race meal?

A: It’s not necessarily a meal but I always grab a Protein Berry Smoothie from Jamba Juice on my walk home after a run.

SIB: What is something your are scared to do, but really want to do?

A: I ran the Los Angeles Marathon in February 2016. It was my first full marathon (I’ve completed 5 half’s). Since then, I’ve been itching to start training for another marathon but I’m so terrified to make that commitment again.

SIB: How does your faith influence your running?

A: Patience is a big part of my faith. I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I have in my running journey without lots of it.

SIB: What do you think might prevent other Muslim women from running?

A: I think it’s pretty similar to what might prevent any person to run – fear of not being able to actually do it. I don’t think it’s our hijab or head cover – that really holds women back. It definitely wasn’t a factor for me, although I can see how some women who choose to cover may be scared to run outdoors given the rhetoric in the media towards Muslims.

SIB: Educate us!  What is the significance of being covered, including covering your head?

A: Muslim women wear hijab out of modesty. But hijab is more than just the head covering; it’s the way you dress, the way you talk and the way you treat people. Hijab is a form of worship. Muslim women cover because God prescribed it for us. And while it is a part of our faith, no woman should ever be forced to wear or practice it. Personally, hijab is a big part of my life. It’s a huge reminder and marker of my faith, which I wear proudly on a daily basis. While I choose to wear it, and it helps me feel strong and rooted in who I am and in my beliefs, I’m just a runner who happens to be Muslim. My hijab never hindered me from reaching my fitness goals in any way.

SIB: Has anyone ever commented on how you dress when running?  How could apparel companies better support runners who choose to cover more skin?

A: Thankfully, I’ve only ever gotten positive comments about my appearance. In one instance, someone even honked at me, but it was followed by words of encouragement. I also always run with headphones and good music, so if someone has ever yelled something negative, I haven’t heard it. 🙂

In regards to sports attire, I often find that the clothes are either really short or really tight. As part of my hijab, I choose to wear loose fitting clothing, so I often have the hardest time finding long tops that are enough to run in, and not too revealing. When I do find long sleeve shirts, they’re usually tailored for the winter, so the material is too heavy to run with yearlong and during the summer. I’ve made due with finding some gems at random stores, but I always end up layering so the material isn’t see-through on my skin.

SIB: How has the running industry been inclusive and non-inclusive of Muslim individuals?

A: In the past year, the running industry has made some strides. A few months ago, a Muslim woman in hijab was on the cover of Women’s Running Magazine. And Nike is coming out with a breathable, stretchy headscarf for Muslim women. I’ve also seen an Apple Watch commercial featuring a woman running in hijab. It’s a really great feeling to see Muslim women represented positively – and in normal daily circumstances – in the media.

SIB: What is one or more thing you want people to know about being a Muslim woman in 2017?

A: Growing up, I was very sheltered, and didn’t see being Muslim as anything unusual in the United States. That was until one day, when my mom and I were riding a roller coaster in a theme park. A few boys sitting behind us started pulling at my mother’s hijab and laughing. That moment always stuck with me, and opened my eyes to how different we might be.

In 2015, there was an incident in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that really shook up Muslims in this country. Three Muslims were killed at gunpoint in their home by their neighbor. It was a hate crime. After that shooting, for the first time ever, I didn’t feel safe in this country. It was a horrible feeling to feel like you don’t belong in the country you were born in – and that you consider home.

Wearing your faith on your sleeve is not easy. I work at a small start up, and I always get anxious when I find out we have any visitors at work. I’m never sure how they will perceive me – as a professional in an industry without many women who look like me. But I’m lucky to live in California where people are very understanding of different faiths and diversity for the most part.

I want people to know that Muslim women are not all that different. We have the same
self conscious struggles, same worries and fear, same desire for success ​as any other woman – and any other runner.

SIB: What has running brought into your life?

A: Running has taught me discipline, and it’s helped me focus on what’s important in my life. I really do see it as a form of therapy – I always finish a run feeling so refreshed and grateful.

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