“I was not a runner … now I’m a pro athlete!”

Thursday 5 October 2023

Last week on GME, we heard the amazing story of Year 13’s Nimrah Sohail, who had a life-changing experience over the summer which led her to the starting line of one of the world’s most iconic races, the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB).

Nimrah was one of 12 young people from across the UK chosen for the Alpine Run Project, which aims to bring youngsters from the inner-city into nature to experience trail running.  The project is the brainchild of John McAvoy, who spent the majority of his youth in prison before finding purpose in sport – breaking two rowing records – and completely turning his life around.

With the help of a dedicated trainer, Nimrah threw herself into months of hard training with one goal clearly in sight: to run a UTMB world series race in the Alps – something most of us can only dream of!  Starting at absolute zero, she built up to running 40-50km a week, training six days out of seven.  “It’s amazing to see what the body can achieve,” said Nimrah.  “The human body is incredible.  I wasn’t a runner; now I’m a pro athlete, running a half-marathon every week!  To train your body, you have to train your mind.  There are points when you crash, and you have to push through and persevere.  It teaches resilience and confidence.”

The 12 youngsters first met at the Nike headquarters in London for the launch event (Nike and JD Sports were project sponsors), and a training camp in the Peak District helped them to get to know each other better.  “We all came from different parts of the country, and we were all so different, but we had the same passion, the same desire to achieve big things,” she said.  They also had the great privilege of meeting Eluid Kipchoge, world record holder for the fastest marathon.

The experience of running in the Alps was incredible. “I love mountains – they’re so magnificent and powerful; I love nature and the natural world; I love exploring and discovering.  It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Nimrah.

The 12 youngsters have now formed a ‘running community’ to support and motivate each other.  “We’re in different areas but we have group chat so we can encourage and help each other,” she said.  “It’s a real team effort.”

Now Nimrah’s goal is to inspire others and drive change.  “We went to the Alps.  Now I want to bring it back to my area!” she said.  “The aim of the Alpine Run Project is to reach 100,000 people by 2027, to get them into nature, onto the trails, to continue to inspire them.  I’m still on the programme.  And that is my goal: to continue to inspire other young people in my own area.”

Nimrah’s closing words of advice?  “Get your foot outside the door.  Put one step in front of the other.  It could be any kind of sport.  Don’t feel like you can’t do it.  You can achieve more than you can dream of if you put your mind to it!”