We chat to Fatima Musa, who is a member of Wimbledon-based Asra Club – a community space that centres Muslim women in sports, wellness and sisterhood – about how her relationship with running has evolved over the past 18 months, and why it’s important to find the right community for you, even if you have to create your own!
How has this year been for you?
It’s been challenging but overall I’ve learnt a lot about myself and luckily I haven’t been directly impacted by Covid-19 in terms of family and friends.
I’ve definitely got into running more over the last 18 months. Having races cancelled and readjusting wasn’t easy. I walked and cycled more and went on easy short runs instead. I was running by feeling and doing what felt good and enjoyable.
I trained for the virtual Virgin Money London Marathon last year too just to have something to work towards. It was my first marathon so I’m really proud of myself.Did your relationship with running change?
Initially I was put off running and so decided to walk more or do home workouts so that I was still getting outdoors or at least moving. The uncertainty definitely affected my relationship with running but we’re in exceptional times. But like I say above, I am back at running now and enjoying it as much as I can.How has running helped your mental and physical health during the last 18 months?
I’ve connected with more runners and with more running communities, I’ve also learnt a lot more about running. It’s not just about putting on your trainers and getting out there.
Running did help my mental health but I also gave myself breaks from running as the pressure to go on a run wasn’t helping me. During lockdown there’s this pressure to be very productive, pick up new hobbies and find a purpose behind everything you’re doing. If you go on a walk you don’t always need to know how many steps you’ve done. I try to focus on just being sometimes rather than always doing something.What does community mean to you?
It’s is something I’m very passionate about and I’m involved in a couple of different communities, one is Asra run club, and also food justice and accessible plant-based eating communities.
Whatever you’re interested in there’s always a community out there for you, or perhaps it’s an opportunity to create your own. I think it’s great that many communities have popped up over the last couple of years to cater to lack of representation to create spaces that are inclusive.Are you part of a running community/do you feel part of the wider running community?
I am part of Asra. We focus on creating safe spaces for Muslim women to exercise, and spirituality and wellbeing in sport, as well as addressing some of the barriers to sport like cost.Why do you think people should take up running?
For me, everyone is a runner, whether you go on a run four times a week, once a week or a month, you’re a runner. You just have to give it a try with the right support and motivation.
Running definitely has helped my mental health, helped me to keep movement in my life when we were all forced to stay at home and allowed me to get alone whenever I needed it.
You may feel different benefits but getting out there for a run will almost certainly have a positive impact on you.Have you run The Big Half previously?
This is my first The Big Half so I am excited to do it for the first time. Since I didn’t get to run the London Marathon route last year I’m looking forward to it even more.Why do you think people should get involved in The Big Half?
I think it is a great London race. It’s well organised and family friendly. Especially if you’re looking for a goal or new challenge it’s worth signing up.
Why is it important for you to be part of this event and come together with others to ‘run as one’? Coming together as a community is so important, particularly given the year we’ve all had. I often run alone or in small groups, so being part of the wider running community and working towards getting to the Finish Line will be highly motivating and I’m excited for the big day.
What are you most looking forward to about this year’s event?
I’m excited just to run the route for the first time and also to have friends and family cheering me on. The route goes past areas that I regularly run by so it will be cool to run in my local area as part of an organised race.