Introducing Mahdi from Free to Run's mixed-gender ultramarathon team

My name is Mahdi, which is an Islamic name, and my last name [withheld] means ‘hopeful’. I selected this last name for myself because I am always hoping and dreaming bigger in my life.

When I was a kid I used to run, but then when the security got bad I couldn’t run for many years. I was always dreaming when I was small that maybe one day I would be in a team and have partners and friends who would be at the same level and always help me in my life.

Finally, my dream came true and I started running with my friends in the mountains. I ran two marathons (one with Nelofar from Team Asma’i) and Free to Run sponsored me to run one ultra marathon (100km). After this I was hoping to support Free to Run in Kabul and this also came true.

I started hiking with Arzoo and Kubra  in Afghanistan to provide some safety, but then I had the chance to join them on the ultramarathon team for RacingThePlanet: Sri Lanka!

I follow a training schedule from Free to Run every week. The coach, Meghan Hicks, sends it to me and I send her my training logs.

Meghan mentions in the schedule that we should run different ways every day except for on Friday and Saturday when we should go to hiking.  The hiking is one of the hardest and most enjoyable part of our training. Every second of our hiking when we are climbing in the mountains we feel that we are the only heroes in the world – sometimes I think that no one can feel like we do. During hiking we feel that there are no borders in our country. 

I am training very hard for the race. I usually go to running at early morning - because of my university and the fresh weather. It is at time which even you can see stars in the sky. Sometimes I am going running in the evening, but running in the morning makes me feel fresh and full of energy. It also makes me happy the whole the day. In evening it’s hard to practice due to foggy weather or when the air is full of smoke.

Other days I run with my Skyrunner friend Mustafa. We try different modes such as running with a backpack with weight. When I think about Sri Lanka, it makes me feel very excited in my running and my enthusiasm for running increases. I feel so excited for my first longest run in my life as it’s more different and even difficult than my other events. When I am running, I feel free, powerful, happy and excited for my future.  I forget about my tension and problems.

It’s extremely good news for my life, that I am participating in the international race with the great team. I want to change the impossible things to possible. In Afghanistan, women practising alone without men is not safe, but a mixed gender team is a great idea because we can solve any problem by helping each other. We should learn and teach to all Afghans that there is no difference in rights between men and women. 

Supporting women was my hope and now it is a reality. Many people are encouraging me and it makes me more powerful in supporting them. I am proud to be on the team. I wish that one day all Afghans will take up running – I know it will bring smiles to their faces.

Race entries for the Afghan team members have been generously provided by RacingThePlanet. Without the support of RacingThePlanet and the 4 Deserts, none of this would be possible. Please check them out!

We are still looking for financial support to cover the team’s other expenses, including flights, transportation for training in Afghanistan, insurance, and medical appointments. You can make a direct impact by supporting the team here

Leah Anathan