My journey began years back. Being obese and weighing in at a huge 105kgs motivated my decision to change my life for the better, both mentally and physically. After loosing 30kgs in 7 months I felt great and was ready to take on the world.
Completing my medical degree overseas meant that I was unable to partake in any events for a good few years, but upon my return I was ready to make up for lost time.
I started with the 94.7 cycle challenge and soon after completed my first 21.1km Dischem run. I enjoyed every bit of it, but I was hungry and always looking for the next challenge- something more exciting. I got my inspiration and became motivated by Frodeno. I knew what I wanted to do next and that was to be an Ironman. It was an untouched territory but I knew I had to compete in it. This was my next challenge.
I was lucky to have our Ustaad (teacher) Mohammed Motala and our own Pro Triathlete Uncle Nadi Kahn who gave me an insight into what it takes to compete in an Ironman event. Training was intense, and it consisted of a minimum of 90-120minutes of training per day, five days a week. It was undoubtedly a long yet priceless journey from mastering the art of not drowning, understanding and adapting to riding long distances and improving my running style and times. Looking back, it was the greatest five months swim, bike, run, eat, sleep, repeat.
After long hard months of training the big day finally arrived. Enjoying breakfast with athletes of different nationalities kick-started the day and all the nerves, energy and excitement could be felt in the air amplifying my nerves but also adding to my excitement. Today was the day, the day that separated the Men from the Boys!
Standing on the beach waiting for our start time, nerves were high. I took this time to give myself a mini pep-talk ‘You have done all the training, you’ve got this…’ before I knew it I was at the front. The iciness of the water that hit me as I jumped in was forgotten immediately and I was at the half way mark and already heading back. The current picked up but nothing could deter me. With just 15meters to go I found myself celebrating as I had anticipated that the 3.8km swim would be the most challenging part of my race but it was almost done. I stood up and got out of the water, turned back, smiled and told myself ‘I did it’! I turned around, after remembering that I still had a 180km cycle and 42.2km run left and I saw my biggest fan, my dearest mum, standing on the side screaming ‘Muhammad!!!’ (It’s worth mentioning that she was extremely stressed about my swim leg worried whether I would survive in the open water). I felt renewed motivation with my mom’s support as I unzipped my wetsuit like a pro and started running towards transition. I spent only a few minutes in transition and was soon out and on my bike. The best part of my race had to be riding a Storck Tri-Bike ,what a Machine. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the cycling leg; soaking in the beautiful scenery and appreciating German perfection- Storck pure riding pleasure.
With two out of three disciplines completed, it was all left to the run. Feeling strong off the bike I began my run. The highlight of my run was definitely the amazing crowd support from the moment I left transition all the way to the end. If you ever want to feel like a professional, this is it. Support ranged from all ages young to old offering motivation, encouragement and even food along the way. People whom you’ve never met shouting out your name, encouraging you to continue, commenting on how strong you looking , small kids putting their hands out and some running a hundred meters with you to a good few supporters who offered meals. Not forgetting our own club and family support, who were amazing during the day scattered all along the run course with their overwhelming motivation and support to take you home. At the end of a long 42 kms awaits the famous red carpet moment which every triathlete looks forward to. As you approach it, you can feel the vibrant crowd acknowledging your performance and cheering you on to finish. The last few months intense training, eating healthy and dedication are all put into perspective when the following words were uttered, “Muhammad Bana you are an IRONMAN” It is one of the greatest feelings, to be able to achieve what I set out to achieve, knowing I have the strength physically and mentally to overcome one the toughest events of the year and looking back and telling myself that impossible is nothing.
But my story doesn’t end there, I was still hungry for more and wanted to be better and challenge myself further. I needed to push myself further, I needed more. After speaking to a few fellow Ironmen, I decided to partake in the Two Oceans Marathon which took place 2 weeks after Ironman. Challenge accepted!
With no previous experience of such a distance, and still recovering from IronMan, I was in for an experience of a lifetime. The race started off well, and I ran a few km’s with the crew who I usually train with. I then dropped and ran with my fellow IronMen Mariam Desai Paruk and Isco ( Ismail Ebrahim) also had the honour of running with Zuna (Zunaid Bulbulia) but let’s be honest- if I can’t keep up with him on the bike there’s no chance of keeping up with him while running.The Two Oceans Marathon holds its title of being the most beautiful marathon and it certainly was.
The race went on but unfortunately after 30km’s I started feeling the strain on my legs. I dropped for a bit and took it easy along the way where I met fellow Jozi X runners Mohamed Moolla, his wife and a fellow runner of his, who took me along with them. We ran the remainder of the race sticking together, motivating each other, laughing, joking and greeting everyone we passed. We made it, 56kms! (Strava begged to differ). What an experience! It’s amazing how team effort and motivation gets you through. A big thanks to Mohamed Moolla and his crew.
Overall it’s been a great month of events. What started off as a dream lead to reality and has awoken a hunger in me to do more. The key to it all is to have fun, enjoy what you do and it becomes a lifestyle. A huge thanks goes out to my family and friends who not only supported me through these months of training and events but who were there to motivate me all the way through. Professor Adam Mohamed, my running coach and the Houghton crew who not only assisted me with my running but also motivated me from the start. Professor Zunaid Bulbulia my cycling coach- those morning rides to Lido, never leaving me behind even when I’d explore a new route. Storck- Design in Motion, Faheem Mohammed my technical coach ironing out all my creases and to everyone else who played a part in this success. Thank you!
This is not the end. The motivation I live by are the words of Jan Fredano ‘I want to go to bed better than when I woke up.’
The journey continues…