Racing the Planet

My brother, Usama, started running on January 18, 2010. Though he has always been fit, he took up running for the sake of a new hobby. He has always pushed the limits of mind and body. It is only natural then that he would not just begin running but then sign up for a 150+ mile week-long race through the Egyptian Sahara. I got an email from him a few weeks before he signed up for the race with a link and his comment, "I think I am going to do this." My siblings and I were skeptical and concerned about how dangerous such an endeavor could be. We thought he was out of his mind. No one took his email very seriously until  he registered and chose an organization to sponsor - TYO.

He started running 50 miles per week and increased to 80 miles a week this month. He will run 100 miles each of the four weeks before the race in October. He has also started training with a 25-pound backpack. He admits this added strain is slightly miserable, but necessary to prepare to carry his supplies during the race in the desert. Usama wakes up at 5 am to run for 2.5-3 hours on four weekdays and one day on the weekend. He describes this new schedule as follows: "the day becomes short very quickly. Three hours of training in the morning, getting back from work after 7 pm, eating dinner, working a bit, reading, and in bed by 10 or so to wake up bright and early for the same routine the next day." His social life and and free time have decreased to almost nil, but the sacrifice has been worth it as he approaches this incredible feat.

The benefit of this effort goes beyond Usama's physical resistance: He has raised almost $16,000 for TYO, just $4,000 short of his goal. Usama's fundraising, combined with TYO's $25k in 25 days campaign, is aiming to raise $45,000 for TYO!

My brother is an extremely disciplined person. "Focus, dedication, persistence, endurance and even pain" are all reasons he cites for having joined the race. "I think the benefits have been more cerebral for me, i.e. continuing to be awed at raw human capacity (with me being an average proxy for what any human is presumably capable of), and the sheer determination that we can apply to accomplish some pretty radical things." And we both agree that there's no better organization than TYO to represent this inspiring concept of using determination to achieve what many see as impossible.

Usama has been involved in causes related to Palestinian justice, dignity, opportunity and self-determination since the mid-90s.  Over the last decade, he has made contributions to education, healthcare, and increasingly to women's rights and participation. TYO's work is a perfect match for Usama's interests, making it an easy cause for him to promote. He has raised the money for the race entirely through his personal network of friends and family.  He says, "I think a combination of close and trusted relationships, the 'extremeness' of the event, and the critical importance of the cause has compelled people to participate and support."

I am proud to call such a motivated man my brother. Though I worry about his safety, I will be rooting for him as his number one fan. I feel incredibly blessed to have been introduced to TYO by Usama and envision supporting the organization far beyond my summer 2011 internship, now as a current staff member and thereafter as a life-long advocate. I hope one day I am able to make as awe-inspiring a commitment and contribution to TYO as my brother has. Until then, I will do my best in Nablus to work at filling such big shoes.

Maliks for TYO, always!