Runner’s World Cover Search Contest…part 1

Here are 5 female Finalists, with Natalie Morales host of the Today Show
Here are 5 female Finalists, with Natalie Morales host of the Today Show

It was a quiet night at the Joumaa’s, my 3 energetic kids fast asleep. After packing away three lunches, cleaning kitchen post dinner, and tucking the kiddos in bed; I sat on couch and decided to check my Twitter. Mind you, I rarely open my twitter. Maybe once a week since my main portals on social media are facebook and Instagram. Scrolling through my twitter feed my eyes caught something and I instantly became breathless. There it was, an ad in which every Avid Marathoners dream come true, from Runner’s World! It read something along the lines of “ want to be on the Cover of Runners World Magazine? Answer 3 simple questions and submit 3 photos for your chance to win the Cover!” Without a moments hesitation I clicked on the ad to see what this is all about. (http://coversearch.runnersworld.com)

I became very excited at the thought, me on cover of Runners World magazine?! An Avid runner, who lives, breathes, and talks about nothing but running, I felt as though this was my chance to promote hijabis and fitness in the Muslim American community. The three questions were easy to answer (http://coversearch.runnersworld.com/entry/594/) and so I did just that the same night with so much excitement that I couldn’t sleep. The very next day I completed my entry with three photos and finally clicked submit. It was May 23. Ill never forget that day. This was totally out of my comfort zone but was so sure of myself. I took to facebook and immediately posted my entry to gather votes. The response was slow at first, so much so that I turned to my husband one night and proclaimed “ Ill be lucky if I gather 100 votes!” with dismay in my mood and second guessing myself, I never stopped posting. The votes slowly but surely started creeping up. friends and family took to groups on Facebook to gather votes on my behalf. Groups such as the Syrian Ladies in USA and Arab American Ladies in Michigan were all very supportive in posting and voting for me religiously. My Rank went from 100th position to 20th, then finally made on to the leaderboard in no time! I took to instagram and twitter and begged, err I mean posted my entry for votes all through Ramadan. I poured my Heart and soul into this contest, and was determined to make it to top ten. Finally the day came when voting ended in August and semifinalsts were chosen. Which I had made the list all thanks to my nonmuslim, muslim, friends, family, and tons of people who voted! I was then contact by Runners World for a skype interview. During this skype interview was when I met all the Judges and was told I was a top ten Finalist. With over 1,600 entries i’ve made it to second female, and third place overall with 25,362 votes! I was over the moon, completely in shock and stooked as to whats to come! Knowing that this opportunity was one that can finally shed some light on Muslim Americans in hijab who run was thrilling for me! The idea of inspiring others gave me so much hope and momentum to keep going in this contest. People reaching out to me across the nation and overseas was overwhelming. Orthodox Jewish and new Muslim Hijabis ladies all supporting me, cheering me on made me feel like I wanna win this for them! A week later I received word that I will be flown to New York for a two day, two night stay for photo and video shoots. Mind you this is first time I have ever traveled without my kids or husband in tow. New York was in itself a experience like no other! This is coming from a gal whose been to Paris, Italy, Puerto Rico and Hawaii, and various other places. This trip i felt, was special due to fact that i was there for sole purpose of running. I checked into the Hotel and was told I had package waiting for me at mail room. The package turned out to be an assortment of healthy snacks, and new Gel Kayano shoes from one of the Cover Search sponsors ASICS. very cool! This trip was headed to the right start! The next morning I woke up in a frenzy trying to get ready and meet the group along with Judge and Chief running Officer Bart Yasso, for an early morning group run. It would also be first time I would meet my fellow finalists. Very nerve wreaking since I don’t know how they would receive me as a hijabi and what they would think of me. But all my apprehensiveness quickly melted away as we all exchanged greetings, hugs, and warm smiles. We all got along as if we knew previously knew each other! I was so inspired to be among such amazing people, with different stores and background and personal struggles. We chatted and stopped for selfies during our quick 4 mile run. We headed back to hotel for quick change and then met at the lobby again. This time, we were lead to the Runners World Studio in which we were to give our video interview, eat breakfast, change wardrobes, refresh with a quick makeup application, and pose for our photo shoot. The whole process was just out of this world! Ive never been on set before for anything and this was by far the best part of whole trip. One thing we all found very amusing and interesting was fact that we had polar opposite runners in this group. What I mean by this is, for example, Michael Warden is an World champion in the 50k and 100k  who runs 2:17 hour marathons, on the other extreme, we had Michelle Walker, who just ran her first 10k (6 miles) few months ago at a 12 min per mile pace. The other extreme we all found fascinating was Here I am, all covered up, wearing long sleeves and semi loose long pants with hijab, and on the other end of the spectrum we have Bobby Gill. Bobby runs uncovered. Pant less. In his undies. He is the co founder of cupid undie run to raise money for NF (tumors that grow on nervous system in kids). So here we all are representing the running community whether covered, uncovered, world champ or newbie runner. This was by far the best example of diversity. Not only for running but for humanity as a whole.
Everything went by smoothly, we laughed, ate, and best of all, got to keep some of the athletic gear given to us by the studio. At noon, Natalie Morales came by for quick hello and posed for pictures. She was sweet and I was totally start struck. Though I didn’t get to chit chat with her much, I loved how she remembered who I was (from the Skype interview) and was totally down to earth! Few more group pictures and we were off making our way back to the hotel. It was 3pm at this point and still have few more hours left before the Runners World dinner meet up with all the judges, few of the staff, plus the finalists at 7pm. What did we decide to do? Go for another run of course! lol At this point I was on cloud nine. Couldn’t believe what was happening and just trying to soak it all in. Now that i’m recalling much of the events I smile to myself remembering how I didn’t even call my kids to check up on them! opps my bad! haha We all took cabs to Central Park in which we ran our second run of the day. Let me tell you, it was super HOT day! And I struggled to finish a 6 miler. A lot of us separated at the time. On our way back to the hotel, couple of the male finalists, Jorge and Micheal, Tish ( editor and Judge) and I ran the 2 miles back. Mind you this was a run on crowded New York sidewalks, busy with crowds of people and vendors. Yet I ran my fastet 2 miles in quite a long time! It was a rush, and a thrill, for me to try to keep up with Jorge and Micheal. I love challenging myself and find it thrilling to do so. Boy I certainly felt like I was flying at times! haha We all had to quickly change into formal attire to head out to dinner. As I was walking with few of the finalists to the Restaurant we flagged down a Limo, yes you read that right, a limo, to give us a ride to the restaurant. This part of the trip will forever be embedded in my memory as well! We laughed and talked about how lucky we were to get this limo ride while the others had to haul a cab lol That evening we were all very tired from the excitement of the all that went on. As I was eating my dinner, Molly, a Publisher for Runners World came up to me and complimented me on my silk turkish hijab I had on that night. We definitely clicked in terms of her being an avid runner herself and was also training for Chicago Marathon just as I was at the time. Non muslims complimenting me on my hijab always sets a smile to my face. Sometimes I forget i’m wearing it, and its those times that I feel proud that i’m representing my covered sisters. That night I slept soundly as I was famished from all the activities of the day. The next morning I got up extra early and headed out for a training run on my own ( 8 miler). I caught up with the group about an hour later by the Hudson River in which we ran together and took more pictures since Tish and David (judges and Editors of Runners World) joined us. It was a bittersweet run and our last one together. But the day is not over yet! We had one more interview left. This one was at the ASICS showroom, in which they had lunch set out for us and more goodies to take home! An ASICS bag personalized with our names and athletic wear was given to each finalist. What a treat that was and totally unexpected! Interviews were conducted one by one in which we had to pick whether we run fast, run strong, or run long while wearing an ASICS jacket and Tag watch. I choose Run long. The reasoning behind this was, being a ‘newbie’ runner myself, I never imagined Id run 3 marathons and 9 half marathons in the span of 3 years when I couldn’t even run two miles! My training runs of 16, 18, and 20 miles at a time were shocking for being so new at this sport! We each said our goodbyes and departed ways to catch our flights back home. I had few extra hours to kill so Michelle and I walked around and exchanged memories of the trip while still on a high from all that went on. Heading back home I felt that my trip to New York was successful and full of happy memories that will never be forgotton. One day I hope to share these memories with my kids

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