Haroon Mota might just be one of the most inspiring people in the Midlands. The Coventry-based fundraiser is running four consecutive marathons this April, in Manchester, Paris, Boston (Lincolnshire) and London, totalling 105 miles, in order to raise money for a solar water power centre in Senegal, Africa. We sat down with Haroon to find out how he got in marathon running, what inspires him, and why he runs.
How are you preparing for the marathons?
I’ve been training since December, running four or five times a week. I train myself. I don’t follow a programme but I prescribe my own training. I studied sport and exercise science at University so I’m quite well versed in terms of what to do and how to train. I run 4-5 times a week, one of those being a long 20 mile or more run on the weekend. Through the week I run shorter, faster more intense runs. Sometimes I run hills, I do yoga once a week, strength and conditioning, it’s not just running. I look after my body as a whole. Part of the training is recovery, stretching, diet and rest.
I take what I do quite seriously. Many people take on a challenge and don’t fundraise as hard or train as hard. I’m the total opposite, constantly thinking about my marathons and how else I can fundraise and who else I can approach. My brother got married recently and even on the day of the wedding I ran 23 miles. My calendar over the last four months is full of running schedules, it’s all pencilled in, everything has to work around my training.
My brother got married recently and even on the day of the wedding I ran 23 miles.
What’s it like when you’re actually running the marathon?
It’s a lot of effort. Some people don’t realise how difficult it is mentally, not just the marathon itself, but it’s actually harder doing the training. I ran 23 miles at the peak of my training and it took me four hours. When you’re running for 4 hours, 4 hours feels like 10. You’ve got nothing else to think about. So much negativity comes into your head, whether it’s fatigue or tiredness, it’s really difficult mentally.
I enjoy the mental aspect of the challenge. You test yourself physically but there a lot of mental strength required. One for the training, one for consistency, making sure you don’t cheat training, and then obviously the marathon itself. 26 miles is no easy feat. You have to draw upon your motivations. I have reasons to run, the charity, the causes, my father, my own drive.
How did you first get into marathon running?
It’s a bit of a weird story. I was already into charity and fundraising but never running. I was always keeping fit, I used to do martial arts and kick boxing. When I started working in London in 2012, I used to commute from Coventry to London every day. I used to get out of Euston station in the morning and it was very strange seeing so many people out on the road running. I live in Coventry and you don’t see that anywhere. I got inspiration seeing them running in the winter or on cold, wet, windy mornings.
Later that year, the teenage cancer trust were recruiting for the 2012 London marathon. It was the year of the Olympics and it was a great cause so I thought why not? I signed up. I had no running experience and I didn’t realise how enormous the challenge would be. I underestimated it and it turned out to be so horrible and exhaustive and so painful. At mile 18 and my legs started to cramp. My head was fresh and my body wanted to keep going, but I wasn’t equipped. I told myself I’d never do it again. The last 7 miles I don’t even remember, I was in that much agony.
At mile 18 and my legs started to cramp…I told myself I’d never do it again. The last 7 miles I don’t even remember, I was in that much agony.
Running was meant to be a one off thing. My father passed away the following year. He was a big man in the community, always trying to help others and teaching in the mosque. I made a vow that year that everything I do going forward in fundraising would be in my father’s memory. I decided to run the London marathon again and I caught the running bug after that. I was running for my dad, myself, the cause, I had more motivation and inspiration. Since then, I’ve run over 30 half marathons and I’ve been encouraging people from my community to get involved.
People call me the marathon man now and when they see me, they ask how my training is going or when the next marathon is. We recently had the Coventry half marathon and I had 50 people join me. It was great to see people recognise running as a positive activity, bringing people together. It inspires people and helps with confidence and gets people fit.
So you’ve done a lot, mountain climbing, 3 peak challenge, what would you say is the hardest physical challenge you’ve done?
Running a marathon is always the most difficult. Completing my first marathon was the most difficult thing. The three peak challenge was an extreme challenge, climbing to Mt Everest base camp, hiking in Peru, these were all hard, but in terms of difficulty, it’s the marathon.
You’ve got to train for 4 months. That means waking up on cold mornings, looking out the window, thinking ‘I’ve got to go out there and run 20 miles this weekend.” The training is all scheduled and there’s so many reasons you could just stop and quit, but you’ve got to give yourself more reasons to carry on. To train for 4 months and look after your rest and your sleep and your diet is really tough- and then the marathon, 26 miles. No matter how much you train, you’re always going to struggle.
A few years ago I ran consecutive half marathons and thought that was the most difficult things I’d ever do. Now I’m doing consecutive full marathons. It takes a long time for the body to recover after just one marathon, so it’s going to be difficult to run when I’m already fatigued from the week before. I might have aches or pains, the joints and muscles take a lot of battering. These four marathons are going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Which of the four are you most excited for and which do you think will be the most gruelling?
I’m excited for each one for different reasons. Manchester, I’m excited because it’s the first one and I can get started and get it out the way. The second is Paris and my first international marathon. Boston in Lincolnshire will be quite tough. There’s less athletes and less spectators, so I expect to be quite lonely during the race.
When you’re running in London, for the entire 26 miles there’s people cheering you on, cheering you by name
There’ll be miles and miles where I’m just running on my own, similar to what I go through in training. I can’t say I’m excited, but I’m looking forward to the mental challenge. It’s the third run so I’m going to be exhausted from the previous two, and the fact that there won’t be as much encouragement and support as well. When you’re running in London, for the entire 26 miles there’s people cheering you on, cheering you by name. I know I won’t get that in Boston.
In London, that’s a special one, it a momentous occasion, 40,000 runners. The atmosphere is incredible, you have to be there to see it and feel it. I’m looking forward to that last mile, the 105th mile. And then afterwards when I can put my hands in the air and say, “I did it.”
So what’s the cause this time?
I hope to build a solar water power centre in Senegal, Africa. It’s a £20,000 project that will provide water and generate electricity to help transform hundreds of lives, homes, schools and communities. There’s a draught in East Africa that’s affecting millions of lives. In West Africa, water scarce communities struggle to survive. I’m hoping I can fundraise the full £20,000 by the time I finish the last marathon.
I’ve raised over £8000 so far, so nearly halfway there. I’m encouraging people to get behind me and support me. I’m asking friends and family, anyone, to sponsor even £1 a mile so altogether its £105. Many people have come forward and done that. Anyone can donate any amount, nothing’s insignificant. It will certainly motivate me to do what I need to do but also achieve the cause in Africa.
What kind of community support have you received?
I have a good social media following, lots of encouragement. Encouragement means a lot. Friends and family are behind me. Lots of the local media are getting in touch to support me. Recently a filmmaker got in touch, wanting to do a small feature video to help profile the cause. A school in Leicester asked me to come in and give a speech about what motivates me. I’ve never had that opportunity before. I went in and they all loved my story so much and I walked away with a £500 cheque.
Every other day I’m getting donations, and whether someone’s giving me £100 or £1 it really does encourage and motivate me. I love logging into my page and seeing someone’s given £2, it really makes me happy, as much as if someone gave £1000. The fact someone made the effort means a lot. At the charity I work for, Penny Appeal, our motto is ‘small change big difference’ and I stand by that, I believe small contributions can make a lot of difference.
What more do you think people could be doing for such causes?
There’s so much work that needs to be done, poverty is everywhere, whether it’s overseas or at home. I always encourage people to get involved and volunteer. At Penny Appeal we encourage people to support us at our events or hold some sort of initiative through work, school, university, whether it’s bake sales or dinner parties.
Be connected to a cause or project, there’s always something for people to get involved in. Running isn’t for everyone, doing challenges and sky diving isn’t for everybody, but helping people and supporting humanity, there’s so many ways whether it be donating or volunteering, whatever it might be. There’s always something. All the charities out there welcome support. You just have to look up a cause or charity and you can get involved.
How can members of the public get into marathon running?
The first thing to do is don’t do what I do- signing up to a 26 mile run. For myself, I find that charity is my biggest incentive and many find charity a great way to get involved. My advice is sign up to a challenge, even its 10k, ‘walk, jog or run’ and never discount or discredit yourself. Sometimes people say “I’m not fit” but it’s not happening tomorrow, its months down the line.
My mom did the Birmingham 10k last year- she took some shortcuts but that’s not important- she showed up and took part
If you sign up to something you’ve got months to train and get fit. And it’s always nice getting fit and supporting a good cause at the same time. There’s so many people who want to do good things but need a little nudge. My mom did the Birmingham 10k last year- she took some shortcuts but that’s not important- she showed up and took part. My advice is just have a go.
How can people help support and sponsor you?
I’ve got a Just Giving page where I collect donations via the page or text. People can donate any amount. My hashtag is #Running4Dad. People can keep up to date with my training and fundraising and I encourage people to share what I’m doing, follow me, like, share, retweet and help me share my story. The more people hear about it, the more people that will donate.
Many people have gotten in touch and said they’ve always wanted to do something but never knew what to do, but I’ve inspired them. People might find my story inspiring, so I encourage people to support and get in touch if they want to and discuss how they can do things for their community too.
Support Haroon’s Marathon mission by visiting www.justgiving.com/MarathonMota or by texting “MOTA60 £” to 70070.