What is The Run Beyond Project and why do we support it?
What follows is the story of Manar, one of the graduates of The Run Beyond Project. When I heard her speak, her story brought me close to tears at what she’d been through, but gave me goosebumps because of her optimism for the future.
My name is Manar AL-Shibly, (not to be confused with Manal). I’m 16 years old. For years, my identity has been forged by the fact that I’m an Iraqi Muslim refugee. I spent the first 11 years of my life in countries that erupted into war zones, and if you can’s already tell from my accent, English is not my first language. I have only been in Australia for about 4 years.
On the 22 October 2001, I was born, and my running journey began, just kidding ha ha ha….. In fact, at the age of 8, I got ran over by a motorbike, which resulted in making my spine being really sensitive. It made me think that I could never be physically active or grow up normally like other kids my age. In my mind running and Manar did not go together, not only because of my sensitive spine, but also because I have asthma, which turns out, many runners have, but at the time I thought of it as being a huge obstacle, I’ve now learned not to let anything hold me back.
At the age of 10; I had guns pointed at my face at school when masked men held us all hostage. I was told that I would be killed if I moved. In that moment I ran, it didn’t occur to me until I started writing this, that running has always been a possible mechanism for escape.
Running has given me confidence and self-assurance, it is an outlet when I’m stressed and overwhelmed. It sets me apart from others in a positive way.
Back when I used to get stressed and overwhelmed, all I did was sit down in my bed and eat a jar of Nutella, okay I admit I might be still doing that sometimes, but running has freed my mind from all the negative thoughts that are stored inside my head and made me see the positive in all things.
In 2016, I watched the RBP girls get awards at assemblies regarding their running achievements. I was so inspired by them, even though I still didn’t think that I would be able to run, I started to think the idea of running was really cool. I began running when the RBP girls started Run Club at school, in term 4 2016. The girls were really supportive and most of the kids ran at my pace so I didn’t feel isolated or embarrassed, we also set mini achievable goals like 100% attendance at each training session.
Running has taught me to be brave. I have learned that not everything happens the way I want it to. It’s not just me that grew and developed as a result of the project I also witnessed positive changes in my teammates. Hayley become less camera shy and more outspoken and confident. Wade always wants to go beyond his limits; he backs himself and loves setting goals to be better than before. Kieren is such a sweetheart, he cares about everyone in the group and always cheering with happiness, he become so committed to running, that even after the last training session he asked if he could come every Wednesday to run. Corey is as fast as a cheetah, he would run all day without getting tired, he learned that he doesn’t always have to be first and that’s totally okay.
I’ve taken so much enjoyment in running. The RBP has been such a positive experience for me and I believe in myself more now than I ever have. Since I started running, I have completed 17 parkruns and have shaved 8 minutes off my initial time. I have also completed four 10km races at Blacktown Running Festival, the Sydney Marathon Clinic, Sydney Striders Lane Cove and the Central Coast Running Festival.
I’m not a fast runner, I may never be a fast runner, but that will never stop me from running. Initially, I was very apprehensive about applying for RBP because I didn’t think I would be as good as the others; soon I realised that it’s not about being better than others, it’s about improving myself.
I found love and acceptance in running. My identity has been shaped, not a refugee, I’m not known as the ESL kid who can’t speak the language, I’m a runner.
A quote that has always been on my mind that I would want to share with you all is that when someone tells you “you can’t”. Turn around and say “watch me”.
I would like to thank everyone who supported “The Run Beyond Projects”, big thanks to Sydney Striders, Athletics NSW, Knightswood House, Running Science, Bio athletics, Cadbury Marathon, and 2ndSkin.
It is because of you, the clients of Knightswood House, that we are able to assist girls (and boys) like Manar.