The Ottawa Race Weekend, May 23-24 this year, is an annual two-day running event made up of multiple races. All the races start and end at Ottawa City Hall. There are 2K, 5K, 10K, half (just over 21km), and full marathons (just over 42km) in addition to a 1.2m kid’s marathon and a wheelchair marathon. Almost 50,000 people participated this year and the key event is the Ottawa Marathon. First held in 1975, the Ottawa Marathon is the largest marathon event in Canada and participants can use it to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Raysso Aden ran her first 5K on this weekend and shares her experience with Muslim Link.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Raysso Aden, I study at the University of Ottawa and have lived in this city for the past 15 years. I am a Canadian of Somali and Yemeni ethno-cultural background.

RBC - Sameer Azam

Why did you decide to participate in Ottawa Race Weekend?

I work at an internet software company called Rebel, which operates under the motto “Be Thoughtful”, “Be Simple” and “Be Brave”. One manifestation of these ideals guiding our company is to get more creative and active in challenging employees to participate in local social events. An email circulated around the office about the Ottawa Race Weekend’s 5k race and soon enough, we had thirteen Rebel runners.

Despite some of the challenges I may face, I did not think twice about participating in this year’s Ottawa Race Weekend event. I have always been an advocate of promoting a healthy lifestyle while having as much fun as possible doing so. I have volunteered with the community outreach team for the Canadian Blood Services and have also coordinated a program via the Somali Centre of Family Services called “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds” for a couple of years.

The former educated the general public about blood and bone marrow donations and encouraged everyone to be a donor if they could.

The latter, was a program which had two components: fitness and life skills training. The project provided young girls from multicultural backgrounds [with] the opportunity to develop skills they need to make informed decisions affecting their health. At the end of the year, we would go on an all-girls camping trip to celebrate the girls’ participation. However, to me and many others, this trip was more than just about camping: it was to give young adolescent multicultural girls an opportunity to experience something unique, challenging, and fulfilling that they otherwise would not have experienced due to the cultural barriers we face daily. A cultural clash between what is considered modest for a girl/woman and what should only be left for boys/men. Providing a girls-only environment has enabled me to break through conservative cultural barriers and it has built a stronger sisterhood among us.

Moreover, the main reason for my participation stemmed from my concerns that not many girls, women, mothers, and grandmothers in my ethnic community are visibly active when it comes to health/fitness related community events. I try to be as much of an example as I can be for those girls and women. 

How did you prepare for the race?

Each Tuesday and Thursday, our runners would train along the Rideau Canal. I had personally started training for this race 10 days prior with 2 gym sessions and 2 practice runs.

How do you feel about having the opportunity to participate in such a big event in your home town?

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity and ability to participate in such a huge event in my home town, especially in support of a great organization such as the Ottawa Humane Society.

How does your faith connect to your participation in an event like this?

As a Muslim, Sadaqah (charity) is a great deed in Islam and it is even considered as one’s proof of faith. Furthermore, looking after my health is an essential part of a Muslim’s life. I am expected to take care of my mind, soul, and body to the best of my ability. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is reported to have said “And your body also has a right over you”.

What were some highlights from the race for you?

Although my sinuses were clogged due to the flu and the constant dry cough made it hard to breathe properly, the energy around me was incredible! The words of encouragement from complete strangers cheering you on felt great and created such an uplifting sense of community. I definitely recommend everyone participate in next year’s Ottawa Race Weekend. You will be investing in your health, supporting a registered charity, and initiating social engagement while having lots of fun! 

This article was produced exclusively for Muslim Link and should not be copied without prior permission from the site. For permission, please write to [email protected]

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