Ultramarathon & Marathon Training During Ramadan

It’s not hard. (إن شاء الله) Well I should say it’s not impossible, but it’s certainly not easy. When presented with the most recent heatwave in NYC I was left with to options, run in the heat or not train at all. (I’m not a fan of treadmill running now that I’ve started a serious relationship with outdoor running, so that was not an option.) Over the past couple weeks I have made it a priority to run at least four times a week, even logging over 16 miles on a Sunday run.

Going into this training season I hadn’t planned to run an ultramarathon at the end of August. It just happened. Really. I did know that I would need to log miles during Ramadan in order to hit my marathon training goals. So then this ultra moseys onto my schedule and there’s no turning back. I haven’t even run a marathon yet. I keep telling myself if I can run 30-40 miles a week in the heat and without hydration I can deal with a flat ultramarathon course with a cool start and a couple hours of running in the heat with hydration.

My ultimate goal is to finish the 50k, but I have an ambitious 4:59:59 or better goal time tucked away in the back of my mind. I was under the impression that I could hit my goal time on some of my longer runs, but I’ve found it hard to hold a slow pac, even on long runs. Last weekend I completed my run at a sub-9 min ave pace of 16.55 miles (if you don’t count the 5 minutes of water breaks, traffic lights and figuring out where we were). I believe the cooler, evening conditions aided in keeping a slightly faster, conversational pace with my fellow running buddies. My goal finishing pace is 9:39 or so for the 50k. I’m hoping that I can complete my 20 mile run this weekend at that pace, but if I stay in the low nine minute range I may be in for a surprise on race day.

I feel like I’m in a grove at this point. My weeknight runs have been at 7:50-8:40 mile averages. I don’t feel drained as much, which I can likely attribute to sitting in the air conditioning for a few minutes after runs to lower my core temperature.

Some of the things that have worked for me during Ramadan race training include:

  • Listening to my body instead of trying to hit specific paces
  • Not wasting energy by making unnecessary movements
  • Wearing breathable clothing
  • Not running more than than 6-7 miles (approx. 10-11k)
  • Starting runs within two hours of sunset
  • Having at least a .5 litre bottle of cold water nearby when the sun does set
  • Starting long runs close to sunset

Every mile during my runs I try to do a tune-up check on my body. I think about my form, my breathing, any tension in my body and how my body feels overall. I feel like this has definitely helped keep me on track and keep my mind off of the fact that I cannot rehydrate like many of my fellow runners post-run. Two more weeks to appreciate the simple things like a sip of cold water after putting a hard workout.

Ramadan Déjà Vu: Pakistan in 2010, Somalia in 2011

The month of Ramadan began on August 1st. During this time Muslims refrain from drinking, eating, sexual activity from dawn to sunset. In addition to fasting, this is a time for observers to read the Quran and commit good deeds while avoiding anger, lying, and ill feelings towards others. This is not something that is easily accomplished considering the fact that Ramadan will occur during the summer’s longer days, for most of the world, for almost more 10 years. Nonetheless there are millions of people who complete their month of fasting while enduring severe hardship.

Last year Pakistan, which is over 95% Muslim, was hit by  the worst floods the country had seen in decades. The country not only saw widespread devastation, but they became dependent upon relief efforts due to the loss of crops and livestock. Irregardless of the hardship, many of the 14 million Pakistani people affected by the flooding committed to fasting during Ramadan. This was a time when those who lost everything banded together to help each other. Almost  a year later Pakistan is still picking up the pieces. Current figures estimate that more than 4 million people were displaced and at least 800,000 families are still living in shelters as they enter Ramadan.

As Pakistan is still dealing with last year’s flooding Somalia is trying to cope with worst drought and famine that they have seen in 60 years. Somalia is similar to Pakistan in that it is over 95% Muslim. Ramadan began with millions of observers fasting in these extreme conditions. Almost 30,000 children under the age of 5 have died in the past three months as a direct result to the drought and famine, according to USAID. Within six weeks the entire southern portion of Somalia will be considered a famine zone. This means over 3 million people in Somalia alone need immediate aid. Across the Horn of Africa there are over 10 million people that are being affected by this drought.

Many Somalians are finding ways to see the silver lining on the darkest of clouds during this troubling time. Some families, like that of Mohamed Idris, have little more than water and a few dates between them. Some wealthier families have offered items such as dates and rice to their fellow countrymen. Yesterday’s food distribution provided by the United Nations’ World Food Program turned into a gunfight that left at least seven people dead at the Badbaado camp, which is on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

While many Muslims around the world consider a 16 hour day fast during the summer cumbersome, most will not understand the feeling of breaking their fast with nothing to serve their family. There are many ways to help, including giving zakat. There are organizations like Islamic Relief that will allow you to donate to specific efforts including; orphan support, emergencies, and specific relief efforts by country. This is a time for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to take time help those in need. mA

A Day In Beantown

Firstly, I love Mass. I would consider it as one of the few places I would consider retiring. I’m not saying that because I’m from there but because it’s a city filled with so much history and culture, not to mention its home to the Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics!

Its been a while since I’ve visited Boston so I was excited to line it up as my second destination. The timing was also great in that I was going to my first ball game at Fenway Park! I mean its Fenway, a ball park which has stood the test of time. Granted there have been upgrades to the park twice since it was built but it hasn’t been torn down and reconstructed like other ball parks. I also decided to have my first go at couchsurfing in the states. I’ve hosted people and I have surfed in Asia but I have never formally surfed in the U.S. This was going to be a great, although short, trip.

After arriving and meeting up with my host I decided to be extroverted, although still during Ramadan, and meet up with other AYCJ’ers at the Oyster Union Bar. After lunch we walked along the Freedom trail, look for a red brick and/or painted path around parts of historic Boston. Some stops on the train were interesting while others were not so much. More chatting and fun washad up until we made it to Fenway, scored free entry for one person in our party that didn’t have aticket. The highlight of the game was getting to sit a bit past 1st base, three rows from the field! A perk when you consider the fact that I had a $18 bleacher ticket. My second afternoon was more about getting a bit more acquainted with the city. I stopped by the Cheers bar, a few parks, and the Granary cemetery in the time I had left.

One of the things I truly enjoy about Boston is that its residents are truly hometown fan. I like to state that there are TWO Boston bars in NYC but there are NO NYC bars in Boston. When I spoke to a Boston cop at Fenway he mentioned that for many years you had to be from Boston to be a Boston cop. Bostonians and their transplants love their city and it shows. I hope to check out a Patriots game one day at Foxborough but for now I’m content with having made it to Fenway and the Garden.

The Art of Fasting

As millions of people around the world are fasting during the month of Ramadan there are millions of people who are not fasting. Those that aren’t fasting may not t fully understand what fasting for Ramadan entails and haven’t taken to researching such information. Due to this there are some things that they may do or say which is unnecessary.

1. No we cannot drink water during the day. I am not fully sure if there are other religious practices that allow individuals to drink water while they are fasting but during Ramadan nothing should be consumed, not even water.

2. Asking, ‘Does this bother you?’ Or some variation of the question when you are about to consume something. If I personally was bothered I would just excuse myself from the situation. There is no need to ask and if you feel you may offend someone maybe you should excuse yourself from the observers presence.

3. Telling people that ‘He/She/I’ am fasting when we are somewhere that involved food (during the day). If I am offered food or a drink I simply say, ‘No thank you.’ There is no need to volunteer additional information when it is not a matter of national security. I promise I will make it through the event without eating or drinking.

4. Each day of fasting begins at Suhoor, or day break. Yes, that’s before sunrise, contrary to popular believe. So if the sun rises at 6:05 suhoor was probably 5:10.

5. Each day of fasting ends with iftar at sunset. Usually this is started with consumption of a date and then a meal. Keep that in mind when if you ever invite someone to do something or to have them for dinner.

6. You do not fast one eid. Ramadan is almost over and with that it’s almost time for Eid. It’s a celebratory time and you are obliged to each and in some cultures give zakat.

In the United States Ramadan started on the 12th of August and ends on the 10th of September unlike most of other observers around the world. I definitely look forward to spending this Eid with friends before doing a bit of traveling, inshallah.

Ramadan Mubarak

Oh me, oh my… where do I begin….this is my 2nd year fasting for Ramadan. This 1st week of fasting hasn’t been so bad, it’s slowly becoming easier to fast although it is still hard to handle all the other aspects of Ramadan. One reason I actually began fasting was when a friend mentioned the idea of me fasting with her. I got so much of it last year that I am again fasting this year. I have also taken on reading the Quran.

In addition to simply fasting I have learned that I should focus on the betterment of myself as well as helping others. Being more patient has been a task I am constantly working on, but I push myself to try harder, especially during this time. I understand the importance of patience and humility, and I hope to work to better incorporate them into my everyday living.

I’m currently on the 4th Surah and I have to say the Quran is something I think all people should take the time to read. Even if it is not for religious purposes, to have an understanding for another religion and/or way of life is something we should all invest time into. I think people would be surprised at the amount of similarities their religion has with Islam.

I look forward to the next 25 days of fasting; mentally, physically, and emotionally. Similar to last year I will be celebrating my birthday during the holy month and having my dinner party/iftar with friends. I also look forward to hosting iftar for my friends so that we can enjoy it together.

Ramadan Mubarak to all those fasting this year!

Why Am I Hiding?

So it’s been a while since I have blogged. I even wondered how I got to this point. I mean NYC Pride is over and July 4th has come and gone. I even made my way out to Texas for a conference and yet I didn’t blog. So I had to ask myself “what gives?” Have I already run out of things to talk about? NO WAY, there’s always something to talk about. Whatever the reason was, I think I’ve got it out of my system and I hope the only reason for my lack of writing to occur again is due to me exploring some remote piece of land without electronic communication for thousands of miles in any direction. I doubt that will happen, I mean I was even able to get on gmail and blog while in Burma (Myanmar) and we all know how lovely their government is.

I found a book the other day (another reason to love NYC), Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar, a short 603 page book based on a 16th Century kingdom in India. I began reading yesterday and hope that I can complete the book by month’s end if I stick to reading on the train at a decent pace. It’s a pretty good book so far, the style of the author is rather enjoyable. What else, what else.. oh YEAH.. my camera has to be sent off to Canon. Apparently there is some electronic damage going on inside the viewfinder which I hope is easily corrected. We will see, I am gonna mail off my little girl Misty next week. I also need to reorder my passport that was stolen, I saw a flight to Nice, France for about $250 and I remember that traveling is something that I need to incorporate into my agenda again.

I think that is about it. Ramadan is approaching and I will be fasting this year, lucky me has a birthday during it again. So I will really celebrate after, in which I want to skydive. My mother went skydiving with my father for her birthday. Now I’m done. I will be back soon.