Nudžejma Softić, a young woman of 28, with green eyes and soft features, of rather small frame, at first sight gives an impression of a delicate girl, but she is strong enough to run 42 kilometres marathon, as recently demonstrated in Vienna, after having been actively engaged in the sport for no more than a year. Her recent adventure made her a first European woman wearing hijab ever to accomplish such feat
Before her friends encouraged her to join “Klix” running school, Nudžejma has never really been into sports, except for briefly enjoying belly dancing as a form of recreation, a while ago. The moment of decision came unexpectedly and she decided to do something good for her body.
“Given that my office work confines me to a rather sedentary life style, it occurred to me that I was feeling a bit sluggish and was gaining weight. For me, those were the first signals that something needed to be done”, a copyeditor of Al Jazeera Balkans begins her story.
“During my first practice, I could only run for three minutes and my entire face turned a scary shade of red. But, just like my other team mates, progress came with time and only six months later I was able to run my first half marathon. Two weeks later, I participated at and successfully completed half marathon event in Zenica, and another two weeks later, my athletic accomplishments included completion of Ljubljana Half Marathon. Three half marathons in six weeks was so far outside the realm of possible for me in the past. If it wasn’t for great coaches, Erol Mujanović, Director of NGO Marathon, and Tomislav Cvitanušić, who designed our training plans and coached us during each practice, none of this would have been possible. These two people are extraordinary motivators, who demonstrated that we can do everything we set our mind to and proved time and time again that the only obstacles that existed were those in our minds. The key was to set a goal, make a firm decision that we want to accomplish something, and put our heart and soul into doing it.”
Faster, Better, Stronger
Running opened new horizons for Nudžejma; as goals were accomplished one by one, new plans emerged.
“Running enabled me to get to know many different people, from different countries, of different affinities, all having one thing in common: a desire to succeed. I always believed that we should interact with successful people if we want success for ourselves. My life just spontaneously and completely changed in a positive way. I became more productive professionally, more relaxed socially, more fulfilled, happier around my family, having more energy to go about my everyday domestic affairs. Ambition is in my nature and this is a kind of sport in which you can make progress fast, in which you can always set new goals, raise the bar, test yourself and savour the progress you made. I gained new understanding, I experienced first-hand what it was like when you are a part of something good, when the adrenaline strikes… There is no stopping now. After three half-marathons I set a new goal for myself – the Vienna City Marathon. Vienna has special appeal for me, because several friends also decided to partake in the event and we all know that good company makes even the most arduous practice much easier and much more fun. The decision I made meant I would have to undergo preparation during winter, which required hours on treadmill and on the tracks up in the mountains, but it was well worth it.” Nudžejma explains. After 22 weeks of intense preparation, on 10 April, she appeared on the start line together with 42,999 other runners. Stage fright experienced the night before, that made her burst into tears, was left behind and she decided to enjoy each moment of the event that was to follow. It is precisely because of that that she now remembers each new kilometre conquered, the cheers from the crowd, people waving from the sidewalk, holding the national flag high above their heads. She recollects those images with great pleasure.
“I only started running for real after we completed the first half of the marathon. The atmosphere there was magnificent, the sounds of the Viennese Waltz as the race opened, the roaring of helicopters above, the buzzing of camera drones, live broadcast, I just enjoyed it with all my heart, all the way to the finish line, the red carpet and the award ceremony. Believe it or not, the medal was presented to me, in the middle of Vienna, by a man from Bosnia. I was in a lot of pain before the marathon, but as the race opened, the pain subsided. In the second part of the race, I improved my time for as much as 15 minutes. We were given water, isotonic drinks and bananas at each refreshment station. After 33 kilometres, they included Coca Cola and I have to say I have never enjoyed it as much as I did that time. I almost felt it fizzing through my system. As I crossed the finish line, I felt as if I could run another 15 kilometres. I regret not being faster in the beginning, but I am glad that I have had such a positive experience of my first marathon. The first thought I had as I crossed the finish line was: OK, where do we run our next marathon? I can now improve my time and my performance.”
Discipline is what led Nudžejma all the way through the finish line. Important part of discipline is proper nourishment, which is, as she has said herself, key to success. Despite her busy daily routine, she managed to fulfil 80% of the plan her coach has set for her, which saved her a lot of trouble caused by possible injuries, both during the preparation phase and during the event. Other runners, her friends today, motivated her and kept her going. Together with them, she left her footprints in the fresh snow, completing her strenuous daily practice at Vrelo Bosne, on Mt. Igman or on the treadmill in the gym.
“I enjoy the company of other runners. These are the people who share healthy attitudes, people whose lives are fulfilled, people who do not have the need to pry into other people’s business. We were pleased and proud about each kilometre we completed, but just as pleased about our friends who stayed in Sarajevo and watched our progress in live video streaming, who cheered us, shared encouraging comments and experienced what we experienced, together with us. It is something money can’t buy and I find great pleasure in knowing that we have so much to be grateful for. For the time being, my plan is to run another marathon in Beirut, and next year, in Paris or Rome, to start with. Naturally, the plan includes Sarajevo half-marathon, taking place on 18 September. We will soon set the new goals for ourselves and do our best to help those who now follow in our footsteps”, said Nudžejma, who participated in additional two half-marathon events in Dubrovnik and Banja Luka since our interview.
Ironman Triathlonof All Things…
The story does not end here. Nudžejma’s dream now is to participate in Ironman Triathlon in Klagenfurt, Austria, if at all possible as early as next year, and if not, in 2018 than.
“When I am ready, to be more precise. That competition includes 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of cycling and a marathon, or in other words, 42,195 km of running, all to be completed within 17 hours.In my view, that competition is the ultimate test of determination, mental discipline and physical fitness. In BiH we have six ironmen. No woman from BiH has ever entered the contest. That means that I would be the first woman from BiH and the first woman in the world wearing hijab, to participate in the event. It would be a great pleasure for me to be the first one in the world to accomplish something positive, and what better thing to strive for than this. I am pleased that things are changing now and that increasing number of women, including women wearing hijab, are now getting actively involved in different sports. I have to mention my friends Selma and Neira, who are entering Half Ironman event this year. I am there to support them and I cannot wait to hear about their experiences, which will certainly be invaluable to me as I prepare for the event.”
It is because of running that Nudžejma learned to compete with herself, raising the bar for herself and expanding the boundaries set by society. The most important for her is to enjoy her freedom and follow her dreams. “There can be no doubt in one’s dreams. Doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever did”, she concludes at the end of the interview.
Written by: Elma Zećo