I’m pretty fit and athletic now, but that certainly wasn’t always the case: when I was younger I suffered from obesity, weighing in at over 26 stone (170 kilos). I was on the basketball team at school, and at some point during my adolescence I decided to turn my life around and become fit, so I started running to try to lose weight. I did that for a while but didn’t stick with it, as I found it uninspiring. Then, one day, my brother and I did a 10-kilometre run just for fun, and that was my first real, serious introduction to the world of running. It made me feel incredible, and I was even able to keep up with him when he was training for a half marathon! I followed his advice, and that was when I caught the bug (this was back in 2012) and became completely focused on running.
I’ve competed in several marathons over the past few years, along with half marathons and other races. Many of these events were linked to a charity, like children suffering from a rare illness or for cancer research. Back in 2013 I and a group of other adventurers took part in the Climb for Cancer event, to raise money for a 9-year-old Syrian refugee, Shahd, a girl with cancer. I started travelling to compete in different marathons: the more extreme the challenge, the better. A good example is: XXX[WC1] . Another event that combines a mental challenge with a physical one is the North Pole Marathon in -35 degrees Celsius. Since I’d just returned from Dubai when I competed in that event, I had to adjust to a temperature difference of 80 degrees.
We therefore undergo cold-water training as preparation and walk on artificial snow. I’ve travelled all over the world, from Africa to New York and from Barcelona to Beirut. That’s actually where I ran my first-ever marathon, back in November 2012. I wasn’t really ready for it at the time as I hadn’t completed the requisite training, but even back then I loved a good challenge! My best friend and I finished the marathon in 5.45 hours – I think we came in last. In order to run all these marathons and compete in these crazy challenges, I obviously need to be ultra-fit. In addition to running, I try to work out in the gym for 45 minutes six times a week, focusing on weight training alone.
I see running as a way of life. I’ve found that, in taking on these challenges, I inspire others to join me in supporting causes I feel passionately about. Running makes me a happier person: as well as giving me a tremendous sense of freedom, I’ve become a more confident person and am more patient and more focused. When I’m running longer distances – which can take up to five hours – I find it easier to solve certain problems, as the long-distance running gets my creative juices flowing. I can genuinely say that running has ‘made me a better me’, as they say.
Mazen has run 28 marathons to date – and number 29 will be very special