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9 February 2020

The QF doc who’s running around the clock

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Dr. Jeremie Arash Rafii Tabrizi is about to undergo a 24-hour test of stamina and mental strength at Education City – and is inviting Qatar’s community to join him.

For Qatar Foundation academic and avid runner Dr. Jeremie Arash Rafii Tabrizi, Education City is about to become Endurance City.

At 4pm on Monday, the professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar – whose love of running has seen him tackle terrain ranging from deserts to mountains – will start running his first 6km loop around Qatar Foundation (QF). He won’t run his last one until 24 hours later.

The Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar professor has been ultra-running for 14 years.

During that time, Dr. Tabrizi will cover a distance equivalent to between three and four marathons, running around the same Education City route time after time, with only brief stops for food and water. And with his “ultra-run” challenge stretching into National Sport Day, when QF will welcome Qatar’s community to enjoy activities focused on sport and active living, he’s inviting people to lend their support as he goes through the pain barrier by running, jogging, or walking a loop with him.

An ultra-run is any foot race longer than a standard marathon length, and Dr. Tabrizi says: “I do one every year, because if you do too many the sense of adventure and victory goes away, and after doing a 200km run in Italy last year I was looking for something for 2020.

“An athlete and trainer who I know told me that he did a 24-hour race around the same 400m track, because the challenge was not so much the physical side as the mental aspect – seeing the same things hour after hour, using the same muscles all the time.

“I found this interesting, and thought about how I could bring an ultra-run into the community, to share it with people who might then decide to run a marathon or even an ultra-race themselves.”

Dr. Tabrizi, who has been ultra-running for 14 years, decided Education City should be the venue for his test of endurance because of his pride in the emphasis that QF and Qatar place on education.

“I go to other countries and people tell me how they see QF as a model for the region and how they would love their country to have universities like those at QF,” he explains. “It shows how QF is setting the standard for the region in terms of education.

I know it will be hard, but ultra-running is an adventure, and you become addicted to that adventure.

Dr. Jeremie Arash Rafii Tabrizi

“The concept of my run is to highlight this, which is why I decided to run a loop around the universities at QF rather than just run around a track. I just feel it’s a way of acknowledging the work that QF, and everyone within it, does.”

The first 24-hour run to be held in Qatar is open for everyone, of all ages, to join at any time, with members of the Qatar Ultra Runners group among those who will be participating. Dr. Tabrizi – who will set off from Education City’s Green Spine outside Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, a QF partner university, on Monday – plans to run for 50-55 minutes at a time, pausing only to rehydrate and refuel, and will adjust his pace according to who joins him By the time he finishes, he expects to have covered between 120-150km.

“I’m excited about it,” he says. “I know it will be hard, but ultra-running is an adventure, and you become addicted to that adventure.

I wanted to bring a run like this into the community so people can see that something they may have thought was impossible is actually achievable.

Dr. Jeremie Arash Rafii Tabrizi

“At some point, you have to dig deep inside yourself and find something positive and uplifting that gets you to the finish; you just find a way of dealing with whatever comes. I wanted to bring a run like this into the community so people can see that something they may have thought was impossible is actually achievable, and this may inspire them to make a change in their own lives or lifestyles.

“My goal is just to get as many people as possible running a loop or part of a loop with me, and I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve had already. People can even come at midnight or 2am and run a loop, and I’d imagine not many have ever thought of doing that, so it’s an adventure for them. It gives them a chance to live something different, and it helps me because running through the night is difficult – you’re cold, exhausted, a bit lonely, and what gets you through is having people alongside to talk to.”

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Dr. Tabrizi hopes Qatar’s community will join his ultra-run and that it will encourage them to realize the benefits of physical activity.

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Dr. Tabrizi is adamant about the psychological – as well as the physical – benefit that running, and physical activity in general, brings. “I started running when I was a medical student, after lectures, because it was a way of disconnecting and alleviating pressure, and I’ve continued ever since,” he says.

“When you run, you’re away from your phone, you’re there with your thoughts, you often find ideas coming to you, and you de-stress. Even in a world with as much technology as ours, it’s not impossible to just find 30 minutes or an hour a day for physical activity, even if it’s just walking – because that’s the time when we connect with ourselves.”

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