It’s graduation time for you college babies and I wanted to share some stories of collegiate runners that have gone on to do other things. Personally when I was about to graduate college, I was in a sheer panic about what was going to happen to me. How would I find a job; would I keep running; who was I if not “the runner”? I think it’s helpful to see that others have survived the transition, however painful and rocky it was. One of my old teammates Ammar Moussa shared his post-college story today.
Ammar explains that in college, running was his “entire life”. This worked out well in running (Ammar was part of the CU men’s 2x NCAA Championship XC team and placed 5th at XC NCAA’s his fourth year), but left him feeling unprepared career-wise after graduation. Ammar explains how he got his foot in the door doing something he’s passionate about, and the role that running plays in his life now.
When did you start running?
I started running my freshman year of high school, way back in the day. It’s crazy to think about, because right around this time, 10 years ago, I was listening to my high school coach (before he was my coach) convince me that running was the best thing for me to get in shape for soccer. 10 years. Damn. I had competed a bit before that, just some local races as an 8th grader, but I really started training that summer of 2007.
What was your relationship with running during college?
During college, running was my whole life. It took awhile for me to figure out that running success made me happier than anything else. Being in a relationship or getting good grades didn’t mean as much to me as winning titles or getting All-American honors. So the last 3 years, running was everything. My life revolved around it. I slept early so I couldn’t go out. I didn’t go out for ice cream with friends. Study? Nope. It’s 10 o’clock and I have to double in the morning. Running was my everything.
Talk about any injuries you dealt with:
I was blessed to not have any serious injuries…until my fifth year. My fifth year I tore my right hip labrum in the fall and had to make the decision to not have surgery and live with it. It was really tough, because coming off my best year and trying to 3-peat as a team I felt that I had an obligation to be there for my team. I never ended up having surgery and we lost as a team. That still eats at me. I decided to go on with my fifth year because it was my fifth year, I tore my other labrum, and I graduated and moved on.
What are you doing now?
Currently I live and work in Washington, DC. I work as a legislative assistant for Congressman John Conyers of Detroit. Basically I get to handle a legislative portfolio for the Congressman where I get to monitor specific issue areas, draft legislation, and just advise the congressman on those issues.
What are your plans for running in the future?
Funny you should ask because I’m still sorting it out. I don’t have the capacity to just hobby jog or run to stay fit. As much as I want to stay fit and look good, it’s just hard to go out for a run, every day, or every other day. I’m just not the kind of person to run just to run. So now that I have the job of my dreams and I have finally have the capacity to structure my day WITH a run, then I can decide what I want to do. Now it’s a matter of finding someone a coach or local group and committing to that lifestyle.
How did you discover your interests outside of running?
As a young Muslim American I knew pretty early on that politics was a space that I found most value in. I knew that I could achieve the greatest good for my community in politics. So, after my sophomore year at CU, I changed my major from physiology to international affairs and political science. It was one of the best decisions I made. I quickly rekindled a love for a subject area that I had known I loved from a young age. Then it became a matter of balancing that with running.
Were you always able to balance running and these other passions?
No. Absolutely not. When running is your entire life any and all other passions are automatically encroaching on that territory. It took a bit to find a healthy balance. For me, I found this balance by spending the week bookmarking and printing the articles that I wanted to read and spending my whole Sunday (post long run of course) catching up on all the articles my little heart desired.
Has running ever gotten in the way of developing other passions or interests?
Yes. One of the biggest things holding me back when I got to DC was an internship. Most of the people I was competing with for jobs had done internships over the summer or during the school year. Because of the nature of CU cross country, and the dedication necessary at CU, it was virtually impossible to commit to an internship like that. So when I moved to DC, I was a 23-year-old intern, competing against 23 year olds with intern experience already. So there was that professional immaturity that I had to cope with, and do my best to overcome.
Do you see running as your main passion, or as something that you do on the side?
Now it is a side passion at best. I don’t even know if I would use the word “passion” right now to describe running. But my main passion is making a difference in the world, fighting the good fight, and playing my role in the American political system.
How has running’s role changed in your life from college to post-college?
Its changed a bit. It went from being my whole life, to just an outlet and maybe something I still identify with. That’s kind of a big change actually. Running used to define me. Now it’s just a part of my story. And that was one of the scariest transitions that I have ever made, if not the scariest.