Hassan Esufally, a young man on an extraordinary mission. Behind his captivating charm and down to earth personality, lies a quiet determination to travel distances and traverse through terrains where no Sri Lankan has ever set foot on before. Hassan, who has a passion for running marathons, has only one goal in mind. He wants to be among an elite few who have the honour and privilege of being part of the 7 Continents Marathon Club™. The 7 Continents Marathon Club™; is reserved for athletes who have run a marathon within the Antarctic Circle on the Antarctic continent, as well as on the other six continents.
As Hassan gets ready to conquer the continents, he talks to Daily Mirror Life on how marathon running has become an indispensable part of his life, and how he plans to be the 1st Sri Lankan to take on the challenge of running marathons across some of the most iconic locations across the world.
Q: How did running marathons become part of your life?
“During my time at the University of Melbourne in2014, I saw an advertisement for the Melbourne Marathon. I was determined to take part in the marathon even though I just had three months to train for it. My friends at university laughed at the idea that I wanted to take part in the marathon and this motivated me to take part. I just wanted to show them I could complete the marathon.
I have always loved fitness and health and taking part in the marathon was a personal challenge for me. At that time, I was the Tennis Captain ofUniversity of Melbourne and I had played several sports throughout school including athletics, swimming, and football. So I arduously trained myself for three months by following a training plan, in order to take part in the Melbourne marathon. After finishing the Melbourne Marathon, I had this immense sense of achievement and satisfaction. The feeling of personal accomplishment was indescribable. I just wanted to keep on going.”
Q: Tell us about the significance of being part of the 7 Continents Marathon Club™?
“To be included into the 7 Continents Marathon Club™, you have to finish a full marathon on all seven continents. So far, I have done the Melbourne Marathon in 2014 and ran the marathon again in 2016. I also completed IRONMAN 140.6 Asia-Pacific Championship in Cairns (which is a is a
3.86km swim, a 180km bike ride and a 42.2km full marathon run). If you finish each event within the set time frame you get the title of IRONMAN. Competing in the IRONMAN 140.6 Triathlon gave me the mentality to think that I can achieve my goal of being inducted into the 7 Continents Marathon Club™. The IRONMAN 140.6 Triathlon was one of the hardest sporting events in the world, to finish that it was amazing. And when I took part in the Melbourne Marathon in 2016, I achieved a personal best, So I was motivated even more.”
Q: What are the marathons you have taken part in so far and are there marathons you will part in this year?
“I took part in the Colombo Marathon in 2016 and Stockholm Marathon in 2017. I’ll be taking part in the Boston Marathon on the 16th of April, the Big 5 Marathon on the 23rd of June, the Inca Trail Marathon in August 3rd and the Antarctic Ice Marathon on the 13th of December. I’m the first Sri Lankan to take part in the Inca Trail Marathon and the Antarctic Ice Marathon. My aim is to meet the cut off time limit in each marathon and the ultimate goal is to be the 1st Sri Lankan in history to part of the 7 Continents Marathon Club.
There is a significance behind each of the marathons I chose to take part in. I competed in the Melbourne Marathon because I studied and live there, the Stockholm Marathon because it is quintessentially European, the Colombo Marathon because it’s my home, its where I was born and grew up in, the Boston Marathon because it is one of the oldest and most prestigious marathons in the world, the Big 5 marathon because I really didn’t want to miss an opportunity to run with the wildlife in Africa. The Inca Trail marathon was chosen because it is one of the hardest marathons in the world, and the grand finish is at the top of Machu Picchu, which to me sounded an amazing experience. I’m taking part in the Antarctic Ice Marathon because it is a rare opportunity to be able to take part in a marathon under such extreme weather. It poses a whole new challenge that I wanted to be part of.
I got an opportunity to take part in the Boston marathon which will take place in April because I had completed the IRONMAN 140.6 Triathlon and other marathons. I also pledged to raise funds for the families of the victims of the Boston Marathon. To get into the Antarctic Ice Marathon is very difficult. Approximately 50 contestants are chosen every year. You have submitted all your details, and the race director makes a calculated choice if the applicant is fit enough for the race and can actually finish it because there is a certain amount of risk involved.”
Q: How do you get in shape to run for the marathons?
“I have a professional coach to help me train. He is the same coach who trained me for the IRONMAN 140.6 Triathlon. We created a year-long plan of how I was going to train for all the marathons, My goal is to take my performance higher up until the Boston Marathon and from there onwards I will be maintaining my fitness level. Training for each marathon is different, and I have to adapt accordingly. Each marathon has individual time limits, depending on the city, terrain, and difficulty.”
Q: Do you have a particular training regime that you follow?
“My training regime looks something like this. I train six times a week. On Monday’s I usually go for a 5 km run, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I do a strength and conditioning training at a high intensity and on Wednesdays and Fridays, I do an intense 10 km run. Saturday is my day for rest. So I either do cross training like swimming or yoga or completely take a break. Sunday is the day I do my longest run of 15 km.”
Q: Is there a dietary regimen that you adhere to?
“I don’t have a diet as such, but I have 5 rules that I follow. I eat 4 small meals for a day, each of these meals is a combination of complex carbohydrates and lean protein.
The meal is about a fist and a half or two fists so I don’t count calories, which makes it less complicated. I use low sodium, low sugar and low-fat seasonings. And I follow an 80 % -20% rule, where out of the 35 meals I have in a week, 28 will be in line with above ratios but 7 would be food that I like to indulge. I believe in having a balance, when you have a balance, it becomes your lifestyle. I have been following this regimen since 2012.”
Q: Do you follow the same dietary regimen during the marathons as well?
“A week prior to the marathon I carb load. I have extra carbohydrates which help to fill my muscles with glycogen and gives me extra energy. On the day of the marathon, I only have liquids; anything that is fast digesting and gives quick energy. On the last week, when I’m carb loading I taper down on my training, after building up to a peak.”
Q: What motivates you keep on running?
“On a personal level, I love traveling, exploring new places and learning new things. At a professional level, I want to do this in the future. I want to inspire people of all ages to be fit and healthy. As a career, I want to be involved in the field of fitness, health, sports, and nutrition. The motivation to do all of this as always been intrinsic. If not I wouldn’t have had the drive to go the distance and have the motivation to sustain myself.
For youth, I think it is important that they incorporate exercise into their lifestyle, and do something that you really enjoy. When you enjoy the physical activity you are doing, you can sustain it for longer. When you make fitness and health part of your life, you are more energized and that translates better in other aspects of your life too.”
Q: Have there ever been moments when wanted to give up?
How have you coped up in situations such as these?
“Sometimes it is hard, especially the last 5 to 6 km’s. You have to mentally convince yourself you can do it because at that point your body on the verge of giving up. There are numerous times when I have felt like I wanted to give up but I have never done it because I have always been a positive person and I’m pretty strong-willed. So my innermost thought is that I want to finish. This kind of attitude I realize sets the tone for everything else in your life too, like how I deal with my career, family, friends, relationships, and finances. If you believe you can succeed and constantly remind yourself you can, it will manifest into you achieving the goals you set for yourself. You need to have a positive mindset.”
“I have an amazing family that believes in me and what I’m doing, my wonderful wife who has supported me from the inception of this goal. I have a great coach who believes in me, and sponsors who believe that I can accomplish this. I also surround myself with people who are better than I am in what I’m trying to achieve, like my coach, who inspires me. I’m so lucky I get to have the right support system to help me achieve the goals I have set for myself.”
Q: All of us aspire to be great one day, how did you work towards realizing your goals and aspirations?
“In order to realize your goals you need to take actionable steps to achieve it. You need to take action after the initial idea. Before I started to pursue this goal of being part of the 7 Continents Marathon Club™, I wrote what I set out to do and why I wanted to accomplish this. And at those tough moments when I wanted to stop or give up, I had to dig deep to find the courage and the thought of achieving these goals kept me going.”
Q: What does your future hold, any plans afoot to conquer more challenges?
“Once I start pursuing a career in fitness and health, I want to be able to inspire the youth to be fit and healthy. I want to show people it is possible to something amazing with your life if you really want it bad enough. I want to set a precedent for the future generations.”
About The Marathons
The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon hosted by several cities in greater Boston in eastern Massachusetts, United States. The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's best-known road racing events. It is one of six World Marathon Majors and is one of five major events held in the United States.
Big Five Marathon
The Big Five Marathon is known for its challenging course, which takes runners through incredible scenery and showcases the natural beauty and wildlife of South Africa. Runners from all over the world will meet in one of the most spectacular Big Five game reserves in Africa. The marathon route goes right through the habitat of the most famous African game: Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, and Leopard. No fences, no rivers, nothing at all separates the runners from the African wildlife.
The Inca Trail Marathon
The Inca Trail Marathon is much more than a race. It’s a marathon which delves into history, a rich cultural experience, and a mind-boggling beautiful paradise. The Inca Trail Marathon to Machu Picchu follows the original pilgrimage trail that leads into the religious capital of the Inca Empire, the legendary “Lost city of the Incas” - Machu Picchu! The run is deemed the world’s hardest marathon because of extreme temperatures, humidity, strenuous over mountain terrain at altitudes ranging from 8,000’ to 13,779’, and the difficulty of the trail itself.
Antarctic Ice Marathon
The Antarctic Ice Marathon is the only marathon in the world in the Antarctic Circle. This race presents a truly formidable and genuine Antarctic challenge with underfoot conditions comprising snow and ice throughout, an average wind chill temperature of –20C, and the possibility of strong Katabatic winds to contend with. Furthermore, the event takes place at an altitude of 700 meters above sea level.
By: Shabnam Farook