Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1285, (3 - 9 March 2016)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1285, (3 - 9 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Running the Corniche

Flushed from head to toe and huffing and puffing across the finish line, the Alex Runners are taking over Alexandria’s famous seaside Corniche, writes Ameera Fouad

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Al-Ahram Weekly

It is when sports blend with charity and charity blends with young people running along Alexandria’s famous Corniche, breathing the early breezes of the Mediterranean Sea, that you realise you are an Alex Runner and a member of this fitness and social club that has been taking the city by storm.

Alex Runners is a group of young people with different interests and from different backgrounds. But they share the same passion to lead a better and healthier life. They founded Alex Runners two years ago with the slogan “Run for your Life.” Every Friday, they run along the Corniche in Alexandria. Everyone is much welcome to join, whether Alexandrian or non-Alexandrian.

Every week hundreds of Alexandrians join the Alex Runners on their quest to turn the city into one that finds more time for sport. Marking their second anniversary this week, the Alex Runners have been celebrating their success and proud achievements with a four-kilometre challenge run from Gleem to Sidi Gaber.

Last Friday saw hundreds of Alexandrians join the challenge and participate in the group’s second anniversary. The social and sports group is not only a fun group to be a part of, in which the main goal is running and entertainment, but it also wants to help others and support those who are in need. Part of the group’s mission is to change the country for the better by raising funds for charity, and especially for the children at the Al-Shatby Children’s Hospital.

“Our first event was two years ago in the holy month of Ramadan, when we took up the challenge of running along the Corniche. Afterwards, we made it a regular activity to have an early Friday run and other runs during the week. We have an elite run, a regular run, and running for beginners on different days of the week that anyone can join,” explained Islam Orfy, one of the founders of Alex Runners.

“We are all amateurs, not professionals as many people might assume. We are just amateurs who used to play sports at a young age. However, we all know how sports can change lives for the better, making them healthier and more rewarding,” he said.

“We realised that after only one year we had reached a wide range of men, women and children from all backgrounds in society. It was for this reason that we decided to cooperate with charitable groups and hospitals to raise funds for hospital units such as the Ayadi Al-Mustaqbal Cancer Hospital and Al-Shatby Hospital, or spread awareness of certain diseases such as hepatitis C and diabetes,” Islam added.

When you run with Alex Runners, it is not just about running. The positive energy and the smiling faces signalling young hearts full of blooming spirits and social enterprise are present everywhere. Not only young people run either. There are families, married couples, children and young people of both sexes. There is no kind of harassment and no acts of stalking or annoyance experienced by any female members of the group.

“I can run freely in the confidence that the men running nearby will protect me from any kind of harassment. That is one of my main reasons for joining Alex Runners,” said Rosa Ahmed, a 17-year-old Malaysian student studying at Alexandria University.

“The spirit here cannot be compared to elsewhere as there is so much positive energy. Girls, women and children feel confident and pleased to be out together, and they are able to run in the streets without any constraints,” said Ayman Hussein, a father of two and a prominent member of the Alex Runners.

“We used to be laughed at when we wore short pants or shorts when running. But when the group became larger, we felt that we had imposed our rules upon society, meaning that we could wear whatever we liked and whatever we felt comfortable in,” he added, talking of the male members of the group.

Ayman, who has been given an honourable award by Alex Runners, talked about how the Runners had changed his life. “I weighed around 165 kg two years ago, and I was on the verge of developing diabetes as a result of my unhealthy lifestyle. The moment I realised this, it was a turning point in my life. I decided I would take control of my lifestyle and not the other way around,” Ayman said.

“Having now lost half my previous weight, I would say to anyone who is too lazy to go for walk or to start running that they are suffering from delusions. I managed to run when I weighed 165 kg with determination and practice. If I could run then, anyone can,” he added.

What is special about the Alex Runners is the group’s social spirit. Despite political or social differences, these young people care very much for each other. They do not accentuate differences, but they search for what is common between them and strive to gather together and not to become separate.

“Let’s imagine a society like Alex Runners in which all its members could overlook their political differences, see what’s best for Egypt, and then do it without thinking. I can tell you that Alex Runners, with the ideal community spirit it possesses, might represent the ideal society we are all looking for,” Ayman added.

So, if you are looking for inspiration, why not look to the Alex Runners? Runner of the week Yasmine Ali shared her story with Al-Ahram Weekly: “Two years ago in June 2014 someone sent me an invitation to the Alex Runners event ‘Running in Ramadan’. I had been trying to run regularly for a while, mainly to relieve stress and lose some weight.”

She continued, “When I came to Alex Runners I got addicted. I met great people who later became my friends and family, and I have gone from running four kilometres to running a half marathon. Alex Runners gives me inspiration, strength and, most importantly, happiness.”

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