Why you need to race in a mud run (and how to survive it)

A Busy Mom's Guide to Being Awesome-ish

While I definitely consider myself to be fairly fit, I am by no means a runner. I have always loved the idea of running, so back about 6 years ago, after I had my first child, I took up jogging. It made sense, given that it is tough to find activities you can do to stay fit with your kids, and throwing them into a jogging stroller is the lowest hanging fruit (see my blog on 8 Ways to Workout with Your Kids for more ideas). However, it was more difficult than it seemed. It took me quite a while to build up to my goal, which was 5k.

I set myself a target, which was to run in my first race. I settled on the Toronto Waterfront Marathon 5k. Seemed like a great idea, but in reality, didn’t work out to be that fun. It was like the perfect…

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The forerunners of the Nike hijab

Social media is awash these days with talk of Nike’s sports hijab, from both those in favour and those against. Personally I’m all for global brands increasing opportunities for Muslim women involved in sport. We wear their trainers, tracksuits and sports bras, so why not what we wear on our head? The only reservation I have is that they will begin to eat into the market of smaller brands, that have already worked hard to bring modest sportswear to market.

It is encouraging then, that many in the Muslim community have been willing to champion and support these pioneers, at a time when a brand with global reach is getting all the attention. Businesses such as Friniggi and Nashata are rightfully receiving the attention they deserve as the forerunners to Nike’s efforts.

All businesses are motivated by profits. The Nike sports hijab was initially developed in response to requests from a Muslim athlete, and they clearly recognised a gap in the market. Surely it is positive that they recognise the drive towards equality in sports: we should commend their efforts. But we should still recognise that they are also benefiting from the hard work of the smaller brands that preceded them, most of whom did not have the vast capital reserves of the likes of Nike to invest in research and development. Instead they invested in the product from their own time and money, investigating breathable fabrics, testing different styles and designs for comfort and safety… and then went to work attempting to market their products to a global audience, without the benefit of vast advertising budgets.

Most small businesses can really only rely on word of mouth recommendations, and reputation. Perhaps some will be able to advertise in relatively small-scale Muslim publications, but few will run on TV or in the mainstream sports press. A viral social media campaign is perhaps the best they can hope for. Even Muslim charities which send their supporters out to run marathons in branded kit, lack the foresight to strike a sponsorship deal with these manufacturers of modest sportswear. Too often it is every man for himself.

I, for one, hope that the Muslim community will begin to better value those small brands working to make participation in sport easier and more comfortable for Muslim women. Buy their products, recommend them to friends, flag them up on social media, blog about them — in the same way you would for a brand like Nike. Recognise that smaller brands may have higher overheads, less access to the supply chains which promise us cheaper products delivered at minimal cost: be prepared to give them a leg up, and help them establish themselves. In short, just do it!

“The women during the time of the Prophet (saw) didn’t have group exercise classes”

The women during the time of the prophet lived in a different time than we do. They kneaded their own bread, carried water from wells, even walked outside their houses in secluded areas to relieve themselves. Today our bathrooms are 30 feet away, sometimes closer. Our breads are bought from stores which we drive to and our water flows from the faucet with just a turn of a handle.

I think it’s safe to say that the women during the time of the prophet lived very active lifestyles. Our need to exercise is a necessary “evil” as a result on our own doing. As a result of our attempt to become “more civilized” we have created lives based on convenience. These lives has caused is to use more brain power and less muscle power. It is this physical inactivity that has resulted in us holding on the fat that would and should otherwise be burned off with daily activity.

So in the fit Muslimah lifestyle plan, we are taking into account where we are today, what lifestyles are like today and how we can use this to our advantage to increase our health and fitness for the purpose of not just looking and feel good but to ultimately serve Allah (swt) and honor his gift of health and body which we has given us.

Our body is a gift from Allah (swt). Our health is a gift from Allah533659_10151604409358662_1055185550_n (swt). It Is our duty to thank him and show gratefulness to him by caring for It. Indeed on the Day of Judgment we will be held accountable for everything including our body. What will we say when Allah (swt) asked us how we cared from the very tool he gave us to worship him. We will only be able to tell the truth. That we did not keep It strong so we could not do all the Ibada that he made available to us.

We will only be able to say that we did not have the energy to get up for salat in the middle of the night because we robbed our bodies of energy by filling it with junk and processed foods. We will only be able to say that we could not remember the Quran or the dua not because we were plagued by old age, but rather because our mind was fogged by the junk that clogged our system.

It is essential that as Muslims we take our Islam seriously. Not just the fact that we pray and wear hijab. Surely Allah does not simply look at our appearance of being Muslim, but rather is a judge of all our actions.


Mubarakah Ibrahim is a certified personal trainer, nutrition coach and women’s weight loss expert.  She is the CEO of Fit Muslimah and founder of www.fitmuslimah.com  and creator of The 30 Minute Fat Burn for Busy Women Program.  She has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show “30 Something in America” and honored by President Barack Obama for her contribution to women’s health in America. She is an author, speaker, mom and wife living in New Haven, CT.

The hijabi adventurer

This post isn’t about the importance of hijab, for we are all more than capable of making our own choices and decisions. Rather, it is aimed at those sisters who ordinarily wear hijab, who may think they face a dilemma when it comes to entering an obstacle course race or mud run. Whether due to incorrect guidance on the part of event organisers, poor advice from team mates or simply fear of how they might be perceived by others, some sisters choose to jettison their headscarves when they set out on their adventure. Either that, or they give up on taking part altogether. It is my contention that such compromises are unwarranted.

There has long been an ongoing debate between sports authorities and individual sporty Muslimahs as to whether the hijab may be worn on the playing field. The football federation, FIFA, for example, banned the hijab on the pitch in 2007 on the grounds that they posed too great a risk of injury to the head or neck. This ban was lifted in 2014 when a two-year period of trials concluded that there was no evidence to support this assertion. In other sports such as basketball, however, bans on players wearing hijab in professional tournaments remain.

Tough Mudder North Carolina

It may be against this background that some obstacle course race organisers advise participants against wearing the hijab. However this advice should be challenged, because many hijab-wearing sisters have successfully completed even the most fearsome of challenges without incident, including Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and the Viper Challenge. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to see participants wearing ludicrous fancy-dress on many a mud run course, from formal dresses to animal costumes: if these are acceptable, why not modest head gear? In reality, few event organisers when pressed would seriously countenance preventing a woman from dressing as she pleased.

I suspect that the real worry of some adventurous sisters is fear of the perception of others on the running track. Much is made nowadays of the rising tide of Islamophobia in our midst, whether real or imagined. There may well be a fear that in a running event made up predominantly of non-Muslims, a hostile atmosphere might prevail. Once more, I believe that this fear is largely unfounded, for if anything is true of mud run events in general, it is that they tend to be made up of extremely friendly, fun-loving folk who are always ready to lend a hand to a fellow runner struggling with an obstacle. Strangers are often struck by the fraternal environment evident on the obstacle course, where everyone is in it together.

In fact, far from experiencing hostility while taking part in such events, many sisters report being treated with utmost respect and lauded for taking part. True, we may object to those patronising stereotypes which lead to those attitudes: that nauseous idea that we are delicate pearls, too weak to compete. But I say enjoy the ride and break down those barriers, those stereotypes, those visions of otherness. Drink up the atmosphere and be prepared to be treated as an equal on the obstacle course as you should be. In short, don’t go changing who you are for fear of the perceptions of others, for in many cases our perceptions are severely flawed.


Finally, there may be some sisters simply convinced that their hijab is an inconvenience in the midst of a race. In fact, the opposite could be true, for there are some very practical reasons for wearing it beyond pure religious duty or piety. If you are taking part in the winter, early spring or late autumn, it will protect you from wind chill. In the summer, it will protect your head and neck from the sun, and cool your head. It also keeps your hair out of your face and mud out of your hair, which is one reason many mud runners wear a bandana. Indeed some mud run organisers sell head gear which looks suspiciously like hijab for precisely this reason. When you think about it, there are more reasons to wear hijab while running than not to.

Right now is a good time to be a hijabi Muslimah taking part in sports, because there are so many options available. Numerous small businesses have sprung up catering for this no-longer niche market, selling sports hijabs and modest running clothes. Even mainstream stores such as House of Fraser have begun selling them. Furthermore, gone are the days when the only option was the “alien head” look; now you can buy elegant, comfortable and still modest hijabs made of light-weight, breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics. My personal favourites are Nashata and Friniggi sports hijabs; both businesses are based overseas, but will willingly deliver to Europe for a small handling fee.


Whether it is in fact necessary to purchase a dedicated sports hijab is a moot point, however, for many sisters manage perfectly well without one. For many runners, a one or two piece polyester Amira hijab proves a suitable solution: they are comfortable and hassle-free, while still providing modest coverage. All manner of designs, sizes and styles are available, not to mention various derivatives such as the Kuwaiti hijab and instant shawls. It’s one way to continue wearing hijab while running or taking on obstacles without worrying about it unravelling or falling out of shape. But of course it’s far from the only option.


Call me old-school, but I still like the good old-fashioned square hijab, of the kind you fold in half diagonally to form a triangle and pin under your chin. For many sisters, this works just as well even whilst running or taking on an obstacle course. Some sisters choose to tie the ends back around their neck or tuck them into their running top; others prefer to use the extra fabric to cover their chest. The only thing to be careful about is to ensure that you have tightly fastening pins that will not come undone midway through the race.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference and what you are most comfortable wearing. The important thing to recognise is that wearing hijab should not prevent you from taking part in an adventure of this kind. You have as much right to take part as anyone else: you’ll probably just do it in much more style. If in doubt, take inspiration from those who have gone before you. Hijabi adventurers are here to stay.

Getting the most out of your Mud Run

This is a guest post by Yatie Nadzli , sharing 20 helpful tips on getting the most out of your Mud Run. Earlier this year, Yatie took part in the Viper Challenge, Asia’s biggest obstacle course event.

1. Form a team of fabulous teammates and prepare to have fun!


2. Ensure you get the nutrition you need before, during and after your Mud Run challenge. Eat healthy, nutritious foods and stay hydrated. Don’t skip breakfast.

3. Do consistent strength and cardio training in the run up to your challenge. Try to work up to running 5km without interruption. Mud Runs are a test of endurance, not a walk in the park. Be prepared.

4. Work out upper body. This is important if you’re taking part in a Mud Run with lots of obstacles. They’re not applicable to all runs, but are increasingly common.

5.  Teamwork is everything in a Mud Run challenge. Help each other in your team and even people not in your team. Somebody else might return the favour when you need help later on!

6. Take a lot of photos whenever you can because this might be your one and only Mud Run challenge.


7. Have a good rest the night before the challenge and don’t forget carb- loading!

8. Wear shoes that fit.  Avoid ill-fitting shoes, as Mud Runs involve a lot of mud and water. Poorly fitting shoes will easily slip off. I recommend rubber shoes or hiking shoes that grip. Don’t wear shoes you’re particularly attached to as they’re going to get covered in mud!

9. Wear long sleeves or a thin inner layer, as there are often obstacles which require you to crawl on the ground.


10. I strongly encourage you to wear gloves as many challenges feature hard, rough surfaces.

11. Bring protein/energy bars, a banana or high protein foods you can easily eat during the challenge. Seriously, we need lots of energy to get across the finish line.


12. Wear long trousers with a reasonable thickness or wear good leggings underneath, as sometimes trousers get torn or perforated,  especially in the nether regions! Ouch!!

13. Travel light. Don’t carry water as there are usually waters stations along the way. Carry protein bars and small waterproof camera. Leave valuables such as mobile phones behind or locked in your car.

14. Leave nobody behind. Remember the Mud Run challenge is not a race: you just have to finish it together. If someone in your team is struggling, walk with them; there’s nothing to rush for.


15. Do not drink so much water before the challenge that you’re uncomfortable and need the the toilet. It may be okay if you’re a man, but going toilet in the overgrowth is not much fun. Just drink what you need and can retain along the way.

16. First aid is always available, but carrying a spray for muscle cramp and plasters can be handy in case of injury in the woods.

17.  Help and motivate each other along the way. Honestly I don’t think I could finish a Mud Run challenge without support from my team mates. That’s why my number one rule is to find fabulous team mates! Yeahhh!!


18. Go into it with 100% mindset to take on all the challenges and prepare to have loads of fun.

19. Enjoy the moment and be happy. Commit to do the best for every obstacle; it will give you true satisfaction.


20. Don’t give up! You are so much stronger than you know!


From D- to A+: One Running Girl’s Journey

This is a guest post by Kanza…small reflections on her big journey from mattress to marathon!

“I can’t run…you’re so committed and good at it and I can barely walk a kilometer without wanting to collapse…”

These were the words uttered by a friend when I asked her to consider joining me in a 5k race for fun awhile back. At the time we both chuckled and then the conversation moved on…but later that night I sat down and reflected on her words and suddenly the enormity of my own running journey hit me.

I am Kanza and I have run fifteen 10k races, have two 8.5mile race medals and am currently training for my very first half marathon in Birmingham this October in which I will be raising money for Islamic Relief’s #Running4Gaza campaign Inshallah. I also ran over 15km last night…for fun…and will soon be training with the Birchfield Harriers in Birmingham (the same team that Olympic gold medalist, Denise Lewis trained with).

But wait!! Before you decide to stop reading…let me tell you more about the real me….

I am also the same Kanza, the girl whose school report for PE, year on year, recorded an A- for effort but a D+ for physical skill. In a nutshell I was keen on sports and running but the teachers also knew I was completely and utterly rubbish! Yes I was that girl who wanted to be the committed cross country runner but couldn’t walk a kilometer without wanting to collapse. I was the kid that no one wanted on their team and would inevitably be the last person to be picked for a team simply because the reluctant team captain had no choice! I was the teen, with knock knees who would almost always end up falling over whilst trying to run because her knees were turned inward and would bash against each other and trip her up when attempting to run.

But now fast forward to 15 years later and here I am running for fun, playing sport for fun and somehow along the way I became good at it…at an age where sports people are often considered past their prime!

So how on earth did that happen?

The purpose of this post wasn’t to boast but to share my journey from my mattress to marathon. I hope that my journey encourages others. Many girls out there will probably identify to some extent with the second description of me, but very few will be able to imagine that they too can become the sporty version. But I promise you that Inshallah you can…and here’s just a few tips to get you started:

1. Move your mind

Nope that is not a typo…the biggest hurdle people think they have to overcome when wanting to start running is often considered to be the body but actually the real obstacle is your mind. The little voice that says “No not today it’s cold” or “Maybe I can run tomorrow” – (yes you know which voice I am talking about !) Well that voice needs to be silenced! The best way to do it is to make a firm intention to go out and do that run (even it if just 100 metres or just one lap round your back garden). Stick it in your diary as an appointment and make sure you keep it! Stick post-it notes on the mirror to remind you, alerts on your phone, put your running trainers somewhere visible, etc. All these (not so) subtle cues within your environment will set your mind in gear and prepare it for the physical challenge.

2. Accept you will find it really hard at first

The first time you attempt to run you will probably have grand visions of it feeling easy…but I will be honest with you…it won’t be…you will wobble, you will feel horribly out of breath very quickly, and you will wonder how on earth does a brother like Mo Farah make it look so darn easy? But hey, that’s ok! The first time I tried to run, I honestly barely managed a kilometer before I was sick in the park (classy I know!) But you know what? Even if you only manage 100 metres…that’s more than the person still lying on their mattress! And that my friend…is a small achievement to give you a boost! Which leads me nicely to my next tip…

3. Don’t give up

Yes those first few runs will be hard and you will wonder why on earth you’re putting yourself through it, but have patience and persevere – I promise it gets better! In my own personal experience it took 2 months of running twice a week (Saturday and Sunday) before I managed to see the benefits…my 100 metre runs became 5kms, I had more energy, felt healthier and weirdly, I felt strange if I didn’t go out for a run…we are creatures of habit…as long as we repeat the task a few times, our mind and body expect us to continue. Even if you only run once a week for a couple of hundred metres – keep it up – it is better than nothing!

4. Find a buddy

Running is always easier if you have someone to keep you company…that may be a friend who runs along with you or maybe the dulcet tones of Maher Zain on your ipod as you plod! If none of your friends want to run, then consider joining the park runs or the Great Run training runs in your local park (the latter have female only running groups too which cater for all running speeds). Both of these are free to join and it’s a great opportunity to make new friends and get fit!

5. Chart your progress

Nowadays we all tend to have smart phones…and the great thing is you can use them to help you become fit. There are plenty of running apps (MapMyRun, Nike+Running, Strava etc) you can download to log your progress. Or simply keep a note in your diary of your running achievement…how far you ran, where you ran, how you felt etc. If you are trying to lose weight then make a note of your weight and body size before you start running and chart your monthly progress…charting your progress will be a key step to keeping you motivated and to keep you going.

If like me you’re at a D- in sport…remember it doesn’t have to be that way foreveryou can change it! So there we have it…my first five tips to get you off your mattress and running a marathon (well maybe at least a few metres anyhow!) Practice makes perfect Inshallah! 

Feel free to leave comments about your progress – I would love to know how you all get on! If there are any particular running queries or theories you want to chat about – drop me a message and Inshallah I can try and blog about it for you!

But for now I pray everyone out there has a safe and beautiful running journey of their own – Ameen



Author’s Background

Away from running, in her day job Kanza is a Public Health Specialty Registrar and in her spare time is the Head of Sports and Well-being for the Living Islam Festival 2016. Her #Running4Gaza fundraising page is here: https://birminghamhalfmarathon2015.everydayhero.com/uk/kanza

Let’s eat cake

Like many people, we’ve looked on at Islamic Relief’s Cakes4Syria campaign with a mixture of awe and humility. Twice a week throughout the month of Ramadan, hundreds of volunteers have given up their own time to deliver over 15,000 delicious cakes nationwide. Yesterday alone they delivered 6000 of them in anticipation of a chocolaty Eid. Most of us have forgotten the heat wave of the first half of Ramadan; not so these valiant volunteers.

The Cake Campaign — the brainchild of enthusiastic Islamic Relief volunteer, Abdul Basit Ali — began in Bradford two years ago during the holy month of Ramadan. The formula is simple: famished folk order a tasty chocolate fudge cake for £10 and £5 of the proceeds are donated to Islamic Relief. It’s a win-win situation: we all get cake, while funds are raised for vulnerable refugees.

Last year the campaign went nationwide, with more and more volunteers joining forces to bring cake to the masses during the longest fasts of the decade. As is often the case with the eager volunteers who are the backbone of every charity, not even the hunger of a 19 hour fast could dampen their dedication to the cause.

With over a hundred volunteers manning the phones and almost a thousand more delivering cakes by car and on foot, it has been a logistical operation of immense proportions which, over the past three years, has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for humanitarian relief in Syria.


Naturally this massively successful campaign has spawned many imitators, as other charities seek to capitalise on its astounding success. This year, for example, SKT Welfare launched its own take on the initiative with its Dates 4 Syria campaign, utilising nearly identical branding and a carbon copy business model. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Cake Campaign must accept the adulation.

The genius and thoughtfulness of the campaign was incredible. In a move that would do Willy Wonka proud, the final batch of cakes were sent out with five Golden Tickets hidden inside the box. We suspect that even Augustus Gloop ordered a cake for Syria this week. Sadly not all of us were lucky enough to have our slice of cake this year, but we have no doubt this extraordinary campaign will return next year and grow from strength to strength.

Surely it is humbling to see what a vast group of dedicated volunteers can achieve when they all pull together for a common cause. Volunteers of Great Britain, we salute you! Watching from the sidelines (we’re not affiliated with any of the charities involved), we have been seriously impressed and are just an incy-wincy bit jealous. Mashallah, I think it’s okay to be envious of good deeds, mashallah, mashallah! May Allah grant us all the ability to act with such thoughtful selflessness as has been exhibited by this troop of volunteers over the past month.

The one outstanding issue that needs resolving for us, however, is how the nation is planning to burn off all those extra calories imbibed through overindulgence on chocolate fudge cake. Naturally, in a shameless act of self-promotion, we think we have the answer. It’s time to get training for our Adha Challenge of course. You’ve got two months to lick yourself into shape.

Let’s all eat cake this Eid. But when the baklava, halva, gulab jamum, marshmallows and oh too tasty cake have all been dusted off,  you must break out those running shoes. It’s nearly time for another adventure.