'The Running Man' from Oldham: Charity fundraiser extraordinaire
This became a truly life changing moment so he commenced a programme of weight reduction by changing his diet and jogging that led him to go from 224lb to 154lb.
Today he has become a personal transformation role model for many people in his home town of Oldham and dubbed the 'Running Man' who has inspired people all over the Britain and abroad with his impressive fundraising running challenges.
A former school maths tutor, his list of achievements is remarkable, working with Global Relief Trust, a British-Muslim charity that works in places such as Gaza, Yemen and Pakistan.
In the last year Afruz has raised £100,000 for various causes by performing various feats of long-distance running and completing 200 kilometres during Ramadan in 2020.
|Seeing the plight of the stateless Rohingya people, made worse by the recent fire, was a particularly eye-opening experience for Afruz and helped sustain his desire to help others|
He has raised funds for a girls' high school in Oldham, worked with local food banks, the NHS, distributed aid to victims of the crisis in Yemen, went on a humanitarian mission to Burundi and set up Just Breath – a 12 week fitness programme to encourage people to take up running, walking and cycling.
He recently returned from Bangladesh where he ran 50km for charity and delivered aid to the poor in Sylhet, Cox's Bazaar and Rohingya refugees. Seeing the plight of the stateless Rohingya people, made worse by the recent fire, was a particularly eye-opening experience for him and helped sustain his desire to help others.
British Muslims are known to be the most generous of all communities in the UK and especially in the sacred month of Ramadan where they abstain from food and drink from dawn till dusk. This makes Afruz's latest challenge all the more demanding as he attempts to run from Oldham to London while fasting to raise money for various local and international causes.
It will be an amazing feat if he can complete his goal of running 313km over the 22 days, running an average of 15km a day.
The New Arab recently caught up with him and asked him about his work and why he chose running as a means of raising money for charitable causes.
What motivates to do what you do?
Seeing people who don't have much, who are suffering and less fortunate than us, keeps me going and makes me want to do that little bit more so I can help and empower the less fortunate. Especially when handing out aid, there's always a few that miss out due to a lack of funds.
What do your family and friends think about your running for charity?
Everyone has been a rock, especially my wife and children since it's affected them as it's changed my lifestyle and our normal day to day structure. Without the support of family and friends, this would have been impossible.
How has running changed your life?
It's made me appreciate my health more, it's opened a new world of health and wellbeing and it's had a positive effect on my community. It's changed my career path from classroom to charity worker.
What response have you had in the community i.e. Muslims and non-Muslims?
I have been overwhelmed by the support from all communities not just locally but nationally and internationally.
|They are amazed and pray that Allah preserves my health so I can serve the less fortunate communities with my running|
What feedback have you had from the recipients of you have delivered to and what do they think of your running?
They are also joining in and attempting to run! They are very appreciative and thankful not just to me but to the donors. They are amazed and pray that Allah preserves my health so I can serve the less fortunate communities with my running.
Are there endurance runners you look up to for inspiration and how do you train for these long runs?
Definitely, I look up to Mo Farah, Usain Bolt and many more. I normally train four times a week – I'll complete a minimum of 10km and once a week, half a marathon. I also workout in the gym on different body parts for strength building.
|Read also: How British Muslim charities have
taken the lead during COVID-19
A lot of carbs, oats, bananas, spinach, eggs and oily fish.
Have you had an injuries or negative consequences from the demands you put on your body?
Not yet, Alhamdulillah (all praise be to God) but I do get regular blisters and muscle pains, however a good massage takes care of that.
Is this planned run a new record of any kind?
It's not a planned record run, it's just the distance from Oldham to London and 313 is also a significant number in Islamic history. If that's a new record, then that is an added bonus!
What is your next mission after Ramadan?
I'm running the London Marathon and have a few more campaigns which I can't disclose just yet...
How long do you plan to continue doing these demanding challenges?
As long as the funds keep coming in, and as long as my mind and body can cope with it.
How can people support your Oldham to London Ramadan run?
Afruz's fundraising campaign is among the many efforts currently being undertaken by British Muslims to help those in need at home and abroad. Over the last year Muslim UK based charities delivered vital services and supported thousands of people affected by the COVID-19 crisis and have been described as the "Fourth Emergency Service."
Dr Sadek Hamid is an academic who has written widely about British Muslims. He is the author of 'Sufis, Salafis and Islamists: The Contested Ground of British Islamic Activism'.
Follow him on Twitter: @SadekHamid