Today’s interview is with Manal Rostom, a fitness instructor, scuba diver, mountaineer, marathon runner, cyclist, triathlete….an mostly a simply incredibly inspiring person.  

In an effort to inspire young Arab girls who choose to remain covered, she contacted Nike Middle East in 2013 and asked the simple question “why do you not show women who look like me?” in their advertising and was amazed to hear back the next day suggesting a meeting.  She went on to become a Nike trainer and running coach and model.  

We discuss how she became the face of the Nike Sports Hijab after being invited to their Portland OR headquarters.  She still gets goosebumps thinking about how it felt to be honored to be invited to participate.  But you also learn how horrific some of the early comments were about her dress and what she was doing.  And how when she first arrived at the headquarters they gave her the same gear (shorts and tank tops, etc) that they provided others and then were horrified that they had made the error of not recalling she had to remain covered so quickly found her long tights and tops for her to use at the convention.

Manal has become her own Disney Princess, by choosing the Hijab for herself and making things work.  She wanted other little girls to aspire to be like her because she looks like them.  Those little girls were her main objective, to give them a role model they would aspire to be like and know things are possible if they believe it.

We discuss how losing her Pharmacy job taught her the lesson to be prepared to move forward no matter what happens, because nothing lasts forever. It is important for athletes to plan for what happens when/if they get injured. What can you do in advance to broaden your horizons so you are not devastated when it happens?

We discuss her efforts to scale Mt Everest and how a major snowstorm resulted in a failed attempt to scale Mt Aconcagua (6,961 meters), the tallest mountain in South America, after already reaching the summits of Mt Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) and Mt Elbrus (Russia) gave her pause and she has renewed her effort to find sponsors to help her move her dream forward.  

Today’s Guest

Manal Rostom grew up in Kuwait and has always been active, despite the obstacles to her doing so when she was younger.  She has competed in many marathons and triathlons, and in 2014 became the first Hijabi woman representing Nike on a global level.  Once they developed the Sport Hijab suitable for sport rather than the cotton ones that are common coverings, she was sent one to test and was so excited to become their model. She debuted it in the NYC Marathon in 2017, the first International marathon to have a Hijabi woman running.  She is also the first Egyptian woman to run the Great Wall of China marathon.  She has set her sights now on scaling Mt Everest sometime in the next two years.  She is currently living in Dubai.

What you will learn about:

  • How she created her woman only facebook group (now 600,000+ strong), Surviving Hijab to open doors for women who previously were not allowed to do things most women can do from going to a pool.  The goal of the group is to support the choices of all women to look and dress in the way that is right for them.  
  • How she contacted Nike Middle East and asking them why they were not featuring women that looked like her in their advertising?
  • How Manal choose to wear the hijab to honor God and say thanks to him after an accident despite having hated it growing up.  Even though it would be hardship for her given her incredible love of outdoor sports.
  • How each of us have a little voice inside us that tells us to climb mountains, run races, whatever and you will never silence it until you pay attention to that voice and go do it.  Why not?  Be brave!  Don’t even shush that voice.
  • How members of her Facegroup group made the effort to make posters and banners specially for her to cheer her on as her family could not be there.
  • How she ran a 5k with Kipchoge in New York, and how grounded, humble, and real a person he is.

Listen to the Running for Real Podcast here:


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Inspirational Quotes:

I can’t believe I became that girl!  Just by having the courage to believe I could create change.

I became my own hero.

If I only had that little bit of vision in my younger years to be braver then.  How much could I have managed to accomplish?

Don’t get too attached to the chocolate, as good as it tastes, nothing lasts forever.  Put your plan B in place to be ready.

You have to keep showing up, you make your own luck.  It is hard work and a lot of hustle.  You can cocoon yourself and feel sorry for yourself, or you can get out of your bed, hustle, and just do it.

Resources:

Last week’s episode with Susan Lacke 

Tina4Real Podcast 

Buy a Running for Real T-shirt, Tank, or Hat

Manal on Instagram

Manal on Facebook

Surviving Hijab (Manal’s facebook community, women only)

Thank you to BodyHealth for sponsoring this episode of Running for Real.

Now I am back to training, guess what was the first thing I did to start making sure I recover quicker (as coming back to fitness really beats your body up!), yep, you guessed it, BodyHealth Perfect Amino! Get 10% off at Bodyhealth.com using coupon code TINA10

Click the banner for more information.

Thanks for Listening! I hope you enjoyed today’s episode.

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Thank you to Manal, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.

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