What do you say to someone who tells you they’re about to run 7 marathons in 7 days to raise funds for Grenfell? To run from Manchester to London? Added to this was the line, ‘I’m not really a runner.’ My thoughts came in rapid fire, from that’s insane yet really amazing to ooh, that’s going to be tough. What I said? ‘That’s amazing,’ and then of course I asked lots of questions, the first of course being why.
I don’t normally write about others writing adventures but I felt compelled to share this one.
I met Kasim at a launch of a new Centre at University College London. This is my other non-running life – I go to these things to keep up to date with the latest thinking and also to network. I can usually find a runner and/or an Australian to chat to amongst crowds.
Kasim told me he was doing the Masters in Global Prosperity. We chatted for a few minutes. Right at the end of our conversation he said that phrase that always gets me asking more – I run.
He then told me his story.
The challenge had been decided – 7 marathons in 7 days. His plan had been to run these 7 marathons to raise money for projects in Somalia and neighbouring East African regions – areas ravaged by civil war and more recently, severe and prolonged droughts.
This all changed the night of the Grenfell fire. More of the story in the video below as well as on his donation page.
— Kasim Ali (@Kasim2021) October 17, 2017
Kasim lives with his family in North Kensington, just a few hundred metres from the Tower. On returning home from mosque that night, his wife pointed out the fire – it was early morning 14 June 2017. Kasim headed out to see how he could help.
He turned his attention to raise money locally, to set up for a Grenfell scholarship for a local charity, Baraka Community Association. This Association provides educational support, field trips, advocacy and other services to children and young people living in west London, particularly those of Somali and other ethnic minority backgrounds. The Grenfell scholarship aims to support children who have been affected directly or indirectly by the Grenfell fire.
Why a Grenfell Scholarship?
The Grenfell Scholarship is to support the long-term educational development and the wellbeing of the children and young people who are directly and indirectly affected by the Grenfell fire tragedy.
Kasim – ‘As a local resident, I’ve witnessed first-hand the talent and ability of young people in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea over the past 16 years. The majority of these youngsters come from families who need assistance and without the right support, much of this pool of talent goes to waste. The Grenfell Scholarship initiative aims to unshackle the economic difficulties faced by many of the young people in North Kensington, by providing much needed professional and career mentoring and small grants to help many young people achieve their potential.’
I asked him what he was doing to get the word out. Kasim has great links with the Somali and local communities, I have pretty good links in the running community so I offered to help spread the word.
7 marathons in 7 days
I asked Kasim about some of his high points in low points in running 7 marathons in 7 days from Manchester to London.
Here’s what he had to say –
- Manchester weather was not kind to me from the start point. It was cold and raining all day. I started my run very late in the evening around 17:00 and continued until about 22:00.
- I found myself running in a pitch-black countryside road whish you would want to drive let alone to run!
- On second day, I had not road to run on so I decided to run in harvested farmland between Manchester and Congleton. I was electrocuted by fencing as I was trying to jump onto a walk path. Although I had few hours of pain in the muscles of the back of thigh, the electric shock was not so bad after all so I continued my run.
- My body could not take it anymore as I had to stop on 23 miles on one day due to excessive vomiting. As a result, I stopped drinking the energy drinks and went back to basics – water
- It was a lonely run!
- The last run was the longest and the fastest ultra marathon run that I have ever done. Distance: 35.98 miles. Time: 6:58 minutes
- Getting Sophie to run with me for the last four miles was greater than any energy drinks I could ever drink. So thank you Sophie!
- I’m feeling good and a sense of achievement, which is what each and every runner feels when he/she completes one ultra marathon, let alone completing 6 marathons and one ultra marathon in 7 days.
That last 4 miles
On my way to meet Kasim and supporters, I got my first sight of the Grenfell Tower. I don’t have the words to describe the horror of it. The building still isn’t covered – it’s a desolate, a burnt out husk. It is profoundly sad to see – I chose not to include a photo.
I arrived at the meeting point and met up with his family, members of the local community including Councillors, and fellow Masters students. Kids were running around – excited at being outside their normal routine, Kasim’s kids eager to see their dad. Kasim was running a little late as can happen on long runs, particularly when he’d already covered 32 miles that day!
He arrived to kids and adults cheering him on. He didn’t want to hang around for long. You know that feeling on a really long run where you know if you stop, you’ll never start again, this was where Kasim was at.
And off we went. At first we were running at a reasonable pace. As we came closer to central London and UCL, Kasim was starting to slow. His miles that day had all been on roads and footpaths which are brutal on the lower legs. His muscles were seizing. But there was no stopping.
Running can do strange things to people’s headspace – here I am running alongside Kasim and he’s apologising for being slow! Whaaaat!?! Here I am being amazed at his journey and feeling privileged to be a small part of his story!
And on we went. We arrived into the main gates of UCL to cheers and applause. He’d run 35.98 miles that day. I jokingly asked if he wanted to run the extra 0.02 – he said no! His run had finally come to an end!
But this is only the beginning. The fundraising will continue – you can donate here.
And no longer can Kasim say ‘I’m not really a runner’ after running 7 marathons in 7 days. He’s already thinking about a marathon next year.
And to Kasim, you’ve done a remarkable thing. Keep running and keep fundraising for this wonderful scholarship, which will have such a positive effect.