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The Syrian refugee fundraising to give something back

Naser Sakka (MSc 2019) arrived in the UK in 2015 as a refugee from Syria. Since then, he has made it his mission to do whatever he can to give back to the community that helped him rebuild his life. As well as volunteering with the Welsh Refugee Council and helping local businesses during the pandemic, in 2019 he ran Cardiff Half Marathon, raising money for Cardiff University’s cancer research.

I heard about the Cardiff Half Marathon when I received my monthly alumni e-newsletter from Cardiff University offering free places to students and alumni, with the opportunity to raise money for important research.

I love philanthropic projects and it’s my dream to contribute in any way I can to help others. This has always been the way that I am.

Cancer is such a terrible illness and I’ve seen many children suffer from it. When I saw the email, it touched my heart and I immediately knew that I wanted to sign up and raise money for Cardiff University’s cancer research.

It would be my first time running a marathon!

As part of my training, I ran almost every day around –three to five miles, sometimes outside and sometimes on a treadmill. On the treadmill I would check my heart rate and test my ability to run fast and then slow at frequent intervals. I found that this strategy of running slow then fast was helpful for completing the Half Marathon. Also, drinking a little amount of water just to keep my mouth hydrated was helpful too.

The race organisation was really professional and everything was made easy for us as participants. From the registration and choosing your t-shirt size, to fundraising tips and information about how I was supporting cancer research, it was brilliant.

I can’t explain how beautiful the day of the Half Marathon was. I loved the crowds of people and how they encouraged you when you’re running. When you started to get tired and you wanted to stop, they shouted and cheered to give you motivation. ‘Come on, you can do it’ – they shouted. You were also given drinks and gels along the way to push you forward.

I couldn’t believe it when I finished! I completed it in just over two hours.

I would love to do it again. My young daughter felt inspired, and she has since joined me on my runs.

You have to practise and train. If you don’t usually train or keep active, start gradually and then try to spend an hour running every day. When you get tired you can walk fast and then just run when you’re able to. Try to think about what’s motivating you.

I would definitely recommend signing up. It’s an amazing atmosphere. You will see how people persist in reaching their goals, and how the crowd supports you and encourages you. When you do something like this  for a good cause, it gives you a good feeling. You’ve contributed, and it gives you satisfaction. It gives you comfort.

Register your interest with us and we will be in touch with further information on how to complete the registration process and claim your free #TeamCardiff running place.