In Egypt, it was not common for women to run or play sports in public. 2013 WE Lead Scholar Mariz Doss worked to change that perception.
In 2012, I began running. To many, this is a common form of exercise, but for me, I run to break barriers. I am an Egyptian female, and in Cairo, it wasn’t common for women to run or play sports in public. I wanted to scale and spread acceptance of female runners in my country.
Like most, running a 5K was something I had to ease my body into. But seven years after first lacing up my sneakers, I can now proudly run half marathons and am close to finishing a full.
I’ve realized through the years that running isn’t only for personal benefit — it can have a wider impact. I teamed up with other passionate athletes and founded Cairo Runner’s, a committee that works nationally to change the prevailing mindset around sports, specifically running, for people of all classes, backgrounds, and ages.
We started in 2012, soon after I put my own sneakers on, with a tiny vision and a small number of runners. We all hesitantly ran for the first time in our broken streets of Cairo, dreaming that one day we would host our own reputable, world class Cairo Marathon in the heart of the city.
The goal seemed impossible with all the obstacles we faced. But on March 15, 2019, we had over 6,000 runners take over downtown Cairo. It was a long journey of trials, and failures, but it resulted in a big success.
We now host mini marathons every Friday morning where more than 2,500 runners participate in a welcoming environment. The streets of Cairo are now filled with our youth, girls, and women running day and night. They confidently take to the streets in neighborhoods where we used to avoid walking, and we proudly believe that we own the streets.
Cairo Runners allowed me to think beyond my own dream, to a bigger vision. It allowed me to be an achiever rather than a dreamer.
The impact of my own transformation continued when I started being called on for motivational speeches and youth coaching. One of the most impactful experiences was being invited as one of four social influencers to lead a training at Elisa Sednaoui Foundation for creative learning. I delivered a body and mind workshop for children in Upper Egypt.
Once you believe that you are a go-getter and not only a dreamer, nothing stops you. I recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. It started off as a far-fetched idea and ended up as an invaluable experience, erasing the word impossible from my dictionary.
It takes courage, persistence, vision, action, and networking to be able to achieve our dreams, and that’s exactly what happened with me. I can say that I gained a voice – I gained a new life.
Whenever people tell me I’m an extraordinary person, I reply “I am a regular person who was gifted an extraordinary opportunity of courage, exposure and networking.”