In April of this year, Khawar Siddique will brave the Sahara Desert’s extreme temperatures of +50 degrees celsius as he competes in “The Toughest Footrace On Earth” – Marathon Des Sables.
PledgeSports Founder & CEO, Richard Pearson, recently caught up with Khawar to learn more about the Pakistani ultra-runner and his preparations for what will be the toughest 250km run of his life.
If you would like to learn more about Khawar siddique and his incredible story please click here to visit his fundraising page.
Q: You had a bad accident in 2013, what happened?
A: I stopped my car at a traffic light waiting for the signal to turn green when someone driving a 4X4 crashed into my car. The severe impact of the crash caused a whiplash injury in my neck and I also suffered severe concussion. Later the symptoms worsened and I was not able to leave bed for two months. I felt dizziness, numbness and weakness in my whole body. The doctors said recovery could take six months to 1 year. With a lot of physiotherapy, prayers and family support I was able to recover in 3 months. Ah, those were tough times!
A: I used to play squash at a competitive level and court sprints were a regular part of my training but I was never a long distance runner. Since 2014 when I started running seriously, I have run four full marathons and one ultramarathon. I plan to run a few shorter distance ultramarathons as part of my training for MDS.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about running long distances?
A: The most rewarding thing about distance running is a sense of accomplishment that you feel every single time you finish your long run. I think running also humbles us. Living in the developed world, many of us spend the vast majority of our lives living comfortably. We are rarely famished, freezing or physically exhausted. The pain and exhaustion that comes with endurance running, brings us closer to people who struggle to survive.
Q: If you need to relieve yourself in the desert, what do you do?!
A: Away from the campsite, water and food. Dig a hole or against a tree (if you can luckily find one). You don’t want unwanted attention from animals. Biodegradable soap and sanitizer will be my best friend in this situation. Don’t want to put something in the ecosystem that doesn’t belong there.
Q: What’s your favorite pre-marathon meal?
A: A day before the marathon: Porridge oats with honey, fruits and nuts, multigrain bread topped with eggs. Night before the marathon: Pasta or rice with potatoes, low-fat fruit yogurt. Breakfast before the marathon: Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and honey, fresh fruit juice and coffee.
Q: Any unique or superstitious running habits – either pre-race or during the race?
A: I think they are silly but nevertheless all runners have a few. I find odd numbers in a bib to be a good omen, or any number that I can relate to somehow. I ran Dubai Marathon with bib number 1147 and I had a car number 11947. Matching gear colors is becoming my new obsession and I am starting to get positive energy from it. And yeah, under no circumstances do I ever wear a race shirt for the race I’m currently running. I’m convinced that it’s just asking for a jinx.
Q: We recently covered hitting the wall, does this happen to you and how do you mentally and physically get over it?
A: I have hit the wall only once since I started racing. I learned my lesson and since then always fueled adequately during a race. That time, I felt severely weak, dizzy and suffered debilitating headaches. I had to slow down considerably. I told myself “I’ve trained for this. I’m an athlete. I’m going to dig deep and I’ll get through this. One foot in front of the other and just reach the next aid station”. Honestly I hated being passed by so many. Eventually I reached an aid station. It makes me laugh to remember that I grabbed a sports drink along with two bananas, one in each hand and I was trying to eat everything at once like someone who has never seen food.
A: You go from a 10K to a marathon, to a 100K, and ultimately a multi-day event. I wonder if, like an addict, I am developing a tolerance to running, and now require an ever-greater dose to reach the same runner’s high I used to in the past. So, yeah very much looking forward to my new higher dosage!
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