97 degrees. No wonder the fatigue was setting in. One more mile left then relief, but no water. It was the dead of summer, another unbearably hot, swampy summer in DC, and I was training for a marathon – while also fasting. Ramadan, the Islamic holy month in which Muslims fast from dawn till sundown each day, fell in the middle of August and the heart of my training season. My two worlds had literally run into one another. I was told I was crazy and that I couldn’t and shouldn’t do it – but I had been through this before and I knew it would be fine. The reality was, I needed to do both.
That year was not an easy year. Newly single after a very difficult divorce, I found myself in a new city – separated from my family and the only home I ever knew. While most Muslims woke up before dawn to eat or came together before sundown to break fast – I was putting on my running shoes – and headphones to block out the noise – and heading out for my training. There were days I would come home and think about nothing but water for the next few hours. But, I didn’t mind the physical pain. I was focused on my faith and my goals – and not mental pain and uncertainty. I was moving forward.
As a public servant, running has been what I do to stay focused and give back to myself. It helps me escape, collect my thoughts and recharge. With each step I put it all behind me and at the end of each run, I am always ready for what comes next.
In 2016, Donald Trump was campaigning to be President on a platform of fear, division, racism and xenophobia. At this time, I was working as the Director of Immigrant Affairs for the Detroit Mayor’s Office. I was working with the very people Trump villainized. The dreamer who worked every day to improve the lives of others, the refugee who just wanted to learn English and start working, and the immigrant who wanted to buy a home for his family. It was hard to sit and listen to Trump’s rhetoric. So I didn’t sit – I ran. After a three-year hiatus from racing, I trained for and ran my next race.
Turns’ out, running for Congress is a lot like running a marathon. I’m now more resilient, more energized and prepared more than ever. I have been told that it is not my time to run. I have been scolded that I cannot win. I have been asked if I “really think America is ready for a Muslim woman to represent them in Congress” – but that’s all par for the course.
I believe in what we are doing; I believe we can make a difference and change the face of power. That’s what keeps me going. That’s what keeps me from getting burnt out. I have my running shoes on and headphones in my ears. I got this.