That’s Why I Run – Sajjad Kassamali

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My name is Sajjad Kassamali, I am a chartered accountant, father of three young girls and an avid sports fan.

How did you get into running?

Like most people’s journey into running, mine follows a slightly quirky route. In an effort to keep fit my visits to the gym would finish with cardio work, primarily a 5k on the treadmill. As a man with a numbers background I would screen shot the data from each run proudly sharing my achievements with a good friend of mine who was a runner. While no doubt, he was impressed with my times he couldn’t help resist the odd dig at my boring screenshots of the treadmill while in return he would share beautiful pictures of his outdoor runs. One day I decided enough was enough and I’d give this outdoor running malarkey a go. It’s safe to say, the little banter and competitive element with my friend meant I’ve never looked back and now wonder what a 5k on the treadmill would feel like.

What do you enjoy about running?

This may sound strange to some people, but for me, running is a form of relaxation. We all have our favourite hobbies that take our mind off life. For some this is reading, for others it’s watching TV, but for me, putting on my trainers and going for a run is the best way to clear my head. Runs in the morning are an opportunity to gather my thoughts and mentally prepare for the day ahead, while running in the evening gives me a chance to reflect on the day that has passed. I find running to be a great stress reliever too, and when you’re a dad of three (very young) girls, it’s a chance for quality ‘me’ time.

What are the challenges you find with running?

  1. Getting out the house. This will come as comfort to any new runner reading this, but even after completing over 100 runs in the past two years, I still find taking that first step to be the hardest. Leaving the house to go for a run is still the hardest part of the run for me but after 5 minutes I start to enjoy the run and cannot wait to see how far I’ll run.
  2. Planning. Trying to plan your runs around family life is challenging. I run early in the morning or late at night. Failing that, a cheeky 10km SJ Sunday run during madrassa drop off does the trick.
  3. Pacing. I am still learning the art of pacing, ensuring I don’t start too quick and fade away at the end. Strava helps me analyse my performances, see where I am going wrong and pace myself better for future runs.

Advice for aspiring runners?

Here are some tips that have worked for me.

  1. Don’t stress too much about your stats such as distance or pace. The most important thing is getting out!
  2. Try running with friends who have similar objectives, they will push you to reach your goals and create future goals.
  3. I wish someone had told me about the importance of running shoes. SJ Running are a great source of advice, especially Ariff Sidik, our in-house running guru. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in our community with expertise, everyone wants to help and support each other.
  4. Incorporate strength training with your runs. This is something I need to get better at doing myself.
  5. Make running a family activity. In the future my aim is to encourage my girls to take part in ParkRun. This encourages good habits from a young age and is a great way bond with them.

What is your proudest running moment?

There are two stand out moments for me. The first was doing a 10km during lockdown which took 55 minutes. I’ve found creating mini goals is a great way to keep motivating yourself and reaching this target made me realise I could go further. Once I’d cracked the 10km distance I realised running a half marathon was possible. The second achievement was this year, in August 2021. I was fortunate enough to run with 20 other SJ runners and complete the London Landmarks Half Marathon. I had always wanted to run my first half marathon in under 2 hours but to finish it in 1.48 mins was something I never thought I could achieve. It was an immensely proud moment for me and showed me persevering at an activity eventually leads to results. Who knows, maybe the full marathon awaits next?