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Zamzam Farah: Olympian, Asylum Seeker and London Marathon Runner

Featured image credit: Virgin Money London Marathon via YouTube

At the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, Somalia entered the stadium represented by only two athletes. One of them, Zamzan Farah, was given the honour of carrying her nation’s flag. A few days later, she would take part in the 400 metre event, the sole woman competing for the east African nation.

Despite sharing the track with athletes like former British Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu, Farah’s achievement in London was overshadowed by a handful of terrible reactions to it. She received death threats via social media following her race. According to a report at the time, Farah, a Muslim, was singled out for ‘exposing herself’ while competing; a ridiculous critique of her faith at any point, but one made even more ludicrous by the fact she was modestly dressed and literally fasting for Ramadan as she ran around the Olympic track.

Speaking last week, she said, ‘In Somalia, people don’t understand sport and don’t like it that much especially for women.’ Due to her struggle to train safely in Somalia, combined with her experiences at London 2012, Farah decided to seek asylum in the UK after the Games.

At first, Farah moved in with one of her cousins, who lived in the UK. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned, and the then 23-year-old was soon faced with the prospect of homelessness. She moved into a hostel in 2014.

Despite often feeling isolated and lonely at the hostel, it was here that she discovered The Running Charity, a non-profit organisation that supports homeless youth by introducing them to sport.

 

With the help of this charity, Farah was soon able to train in a safe environment and pursue her passion. As she says, ‘I love doing sport, it was inside me. It’s not something that someone told me to do. It’s what my feelings and my life told me to do.’

After getting her running career back on track, The Running Charity nominated Farah to represent the organisation at this year’s London marathon. On Sunday, she completed the marathon on the Mall, near Buckingham Palace, and received her medal.

While Farah may have crossed the finish line in the Olympic stadium in 2012, her race is only just beginning.

Bonus! While researching this article, we found this wonderful video of Zamzam singing on the streets of east London in 2012, right after the opening ceremony:

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