Emon Choudhury on his biggest challenge yet
Emon Choudhury is back and more determined than ever to crush the adidas Manchester Marathon 2023. The 39-year-old ‘Race Across the World’ winner and charity fundraising extraordinaire will be running during Ramadan once more this year – a challenge that requires great resolve and carefully planned training. Not only that, Emon is also running to support the Motor Neurone Association after an encounter with Leeds Rhino rugby legend Rob Burrows last year.
We caught up with Emon to learn how this challenge – which falls into the third week of Ramadan – is like nothing else he’s attempted before, as well that inspiring meeting with Rob Burrows, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2019.
The adidas Manchester Marathon falls at a later stage during Ramadan this year – how do you expect to be impacted by this?
The fact that the adidas Manchester Marathon falls 3 weeks into Ramadan this year changes everything for me. Last year’s event fell on the second day, so even though I abstained from taking on any water or food on the day of the marathon, my body was fairly stocked up from eating regularly the week before.
This year, 3 weeks into Ramadan, my body will be quite depleted; to put this into context, I typically lose about a stone each year during this time! This has led me to change my training plan completely. For example, I will time my runs so that I can be back shortly before breaking my fast in the evening. I am also really focusing on knowing my limits and understanding that it’s ok if a session doesn’t go to plan. It’s all about balance and treating my body kindly, so that it’s up for the challenge on event day.
Are there any similarities or shared principles between Ramadan and running a marathon?
Marathon training typically starts 6 months prior to the event, and it requires motivation and self-discipline. This is similar to my religion, as while the month of Ramadan is important, I am spiritually devoted throughout the whole year, which requires similar attributes to someone training for a marathon, including consistency. Consistency is a big goal for me this year, as I will be focusing on slowing down my pace and getting my speed right. Self-reflection and of course, self-discipline are very important here – similar to my religious practice in which I pray five times a day and abstain from food and drink during Ramadan.
Did you learn anything from Manchester Marathon 2022, which you also completed during Ramadan, which you can bring to the event this year?
Last year I set out far too fast – when I looked at my stats afterwards, it turned out I was going at a crazy speed for the first 5 miles! I then hit the wall at 18/19 miles. I have really been working on my endurance in my training to combat this. I’ve also been improving my nutrition, where I am eating lots of slow energy releasing foods such as porridge and bananas.
What do you say to people who comment ‘That’s impossible! You can’t run a marathon without taking on food or water!’?
It is incredible how the body can adapt and be trained to function in certain conditions. Intermittent fasting is something I am now used to and I can still do endurance training safely. I also remember David Blaine’s challenge – suspended in the glass box for 44 days without food – which people said was impossible. While this is extreme, with similar challenges like mine, you can train your body to do it. I am also a strong believer in mind over matter – believe in yourself and you can do it.
Can you describe your meeting with Rob Burrows in a bit more detail, and how you were inspired to raise £77,777 for MND Association?
I met Rob last year at an award’s ceremony in Yorkshire. The ceremony was about Motor Neurone Disease and to be honest, I didn’t know a lot about it at the time. I’ve always been a rugby fan and followed Rob from his Rhinos days. When we met in person, I was taken aback and very humbled. With everything he and his family have gone through, they remain strong and so determined. Also, what the Burrows have done for the MND community is phenomenal. I found myself asking ‘What can I do to help?’ immediately after I met them.
I think it’s really important to raise as much awareness about MND as possible. It’s a devastating disease – Rob Burrows received his diagnosis just two years after ending his career as a professional rugby career, when his physical health and mobility began to decline.
It’s also so unbelievably hard for the family and network. Rob’s wife Lindsey gave up her job to look after him full time. They have three young children together. It’s heart-breaking.
That’s why I am aiming to raise £77,777 for MND Association by running the adidas Manchester Marathon this year. Rob Burrow’s was number 77 on the rugby pitch, so this is a way for me to show my respect for him.
How can money raised for MND Association help those with this condition?
I have spoken to the charity themselves and while there is no cure at present, donations go towards scientific research into the exact causes of the disease. Funds also go towards supporting the family of sufferers. This is something that I can really relate to in my own background, as my family had to receive crucial extra help when I was growing up.
To put this into perspective, last month, I went to a MND Association support meeting where I met a full-time carer who was working part time at Tesco just to make ends meet. The pressure put on family members of sufferers is intense, and anything to relieve this improves the quality of everyone’s lives.
Make sure to follow Emon’s progress on the day on Instagram, where he will be live-streaming himself running the marathon.
You can also donate to Emon’s JustGiving page for Motor Neurone Disease Association here: https://justgiving.com/fundraising/emon