Dubai: Ghani Souleymane wakes up at 2am, has a filling breakfast of oats and bananas, then starts running at around 3am. So far, he has run 45 km every day. That's what he's beeing doing for the last 15 days, when the Dubai Fitness Challenge kicked off. He has 15 days more to go until the end of Dubai30x30.
“At first I just wanted to run a regular marathon," Ghani, a Dubai resident, told Gulf News. "Then I told myself to make it just a little bit more challenging. So the 42.2-km marathon turned into a 45-km run every day, for 30 days.”
He starts at 3am and finishes at around 7am or 8am. “I could run faster, but I take it easy on myself. I don’t want to push myself too much, since I have to do it again the next day,” he said.
Usually, Ghani runs alone, because of the timings of his runs. Not many people want this early of a wake-up call. “I am thinking of switching up the time of my runs so that I can allow more people to join me. I am going to give people a heads up on my social media every day, so they can run with me.
“My goal is to run in different locations all across the UAE, so I can allow as many as possible to join me. I also want to make sure that I check off all seven emirates, so will make sure that I geographically spread out the marathons as much as I can.” For the late runs, his plan is to finish work at around 5pm and start running from 6pm until late in the night.
“I decided to use the Dubai Fitness Challenge as sort of the anchor of this challenge. It’s a great opportunity for me to exercise every day for 30 days, except instead of 30 minutes, it takes about 5 hours.
Luckily, I have an amazing manager and team, so when I told them I would do this challenge they completely supported me. They reduced some of my working hours so I can use that time for running and resting.” Ghani works for Puma Middle East as a Sales Associate.
His diet, his sleep, his social life
“I eat normal food. It’s not extra clean, to be honest. I burn around 4,000 calories a day, so I kind of have to eat as much as possible. I can usually just manage to stomach 2,000 calories back into my body. Any more than that is too much food for me. The running part is easy but the eating is what’s hard for me.”
You would think that after running 45km a day, Ghani would be exhausted. But he hardly sleeps. “Sleep is something I really need to work on. It’s generally such a problem for me to fall asleep. My mind doesn’t rest. So I usually sleep around four to five hours a night. The only time my mind is quiet is when I run. Running is my meditation time. I don’t see what is happening around me. That’s when my brain gets to rest.”
Ghani doesn’t worry much about his social life during this time. He considers running with others a great way of being social. “Both friends and strangers run with me. It’s a great way to meet new people.”
The 37-year-old hails from Togo, West Africa, where he grew up playing all different types of sports including football, basketball, volleyball. He only really started running four years ago when he moved to Dubai.
Running has also allowed Ghani to give back. The last 20 days of his Dubai 30x30 45km run will be donated to his favourite charity, Heroes of Hope, a non-profit group devoted to getting children of determination active. He has a link in his Instagram bio, on which people can donate to this great cause.
“All this running has taught me a lot about myself, about my body. It always brings me back down to earth. It teaches me where I am coming from and where I am going, and that I can do anything.”