SHAFAQNA – Participating in 2015 London Marathon later in April, a British Muslim runner has only one contestant he intends to beat – cancer.
“My mission is to run 26.2 miles at this year’s London Marathon on April 26th, with the aim of raising £10,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust,” Haroon Mota, the Youth Support Coordinator for University College London Hospitals, told Muslim Matters on Saturday, April 12.
“Although the actual challenge is to run 26.2 miles on race day, the training regimen and the amount of miles you have to run in preparation is really tough too.
“So it’s also my mission to get to race day in the best physical and mental condition possible.”
Going to the London Marathon two weeks later, Mota said he expects to cross about half of the race when his pre-race favorites such as world record holder Dennis Kimetto, defending champion Wilson Kipsang and three-time Olympic gold medalist Kenenisa Bekele make it to the finish line.
The 29-year-old young Muslim is running this year’s marathon to support Teenage Cancer Trust, with a goal of raising £10,000 (about $14,786 US dollars) for the trust.
Mota was raised in a Muslim family in Coventry, England.
Being a fan of martial arts, he got involved in Tae Kwon Do and kickboxing which he still practices till today.
But in recent years, Mota has essentially turned himself into a distance runner for several charitable causes, sacrificing time he could devote to a sport he loves to instead focus on a sport that allows him to help people.
“I was never a fan of distance running. We were never offered track and field or cross country running at school, so it’s quite new to me,” Mota said.
“I don’t think I have an ideal physique for distance running either; I’m 83 kilograms with very heavy legs, so it is hard work for me and I have a long way to go.
“My athletic background is martial arts. I started kickboxing at the age of 15 after doing very well at Tae Kwon Do as a junior.”
The role as young Muslim activist and charity runner came as a coincidence.
“Many years ago, I began volunteering for the charity Islamic Relief. It was quite a coincidence, actually,” he said.
“I was trekking down Mount Snowdon when I bumped into a group of Muslim ladies who were climbing with Islamic Relief, and when I learned about what they were doing, it really inspired me to get involved with the charity myself.
“I signed up to one of their sponsored international challenges in 2008 during my final year at University; a trek to Mount Everest Base Camp. This was an incredible two-week trek in the Himalayas reaching 18,000 feet, and I managed to raise £20,000 for their Orphan Campaign.
“The trek itself and the fundraising was such an enjoyable experience for me, that this passion of sponsored challenges just grew within me, and I’ve never stopped since, Alhamdulillah!” he added.
As of today, Haroon’s “Marathon Mission for Teenage Cancer Trust” on JustGiving’s fundraising website has received £8,327.04 in donations, about 83% of the campaign’s target.
For Haroon, Islam offered the guidance he was seeking in life, that would lead him to the straight path.
“I like that we have guidance — through the word of Allah and the Sunnah — for all aspects of life.”
“There is an answer to everything and we have the most incredible role model and example to follow in Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). I’m blessed to be Muslim and it’s easy to forget and be ungrateful of it, Alhamdulillah!”
First published in Muslim Matters