When running becomes a lifestyle in Jeddah streets


Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — “Running is finding yourself,” stated Nesreen Ghonaim, the director of Jeddah Running Collective (JRC), while expounding how a chance post developed into a passion that proved the catalyst that changed her life.

JRC, a group of runners that was created in 2013, was the brainchild of three expatriates who sought a continuum of the practice of running when they transferred from their country to the Kingdom.

They decided to continue enjoying running in Jeddah as they used to back in their countries, and their collective efforts resulted in JRC.

According to Ghonaim those members really wanted to spread awareness and positivity through engaging the community in running and fostering a healthier lifestyle. Today, there are around 80 members.

The JRC has one collective that is mainly for men and another for women. There are three sessions per week and anyone who is eager to have a healthier lifestyle can join them.

Ghonaim explained that she joined the group in 2015 and it was a turning point in her life. She said, “I was not a runner. I did not find JRC. JRC found me. I was looking for change and a healthier lifestyle when I came about a post on Facebook about this amazing group.

“I found myself drawn to this group and then started running. The activity transformed me from a chain smoker to a runner. I took over managing the group in 2016 with the help of some of our JRC crew leaders, and it›s been an amazing journey.”

When we asked Ghonaim about some of the struggles that she faces in her endeavor, she answered that one of the main struggles was society’s perception. “That needs to change and a level of acceptance is needed,” she said.

She said, “The struggles we face is of people looking at us running and finding what we are doing is wrong or inappropriate! Others, meanwhile, encourage us. So we get mixed signals. We get different reactions but with time you learn to focus on the bigger picture, game-changing prospect.

“We are moving forward towards Vision 2030. Not having proper tracks to run in or train is another real struggle, but we make do with what we have. And interest and the numbers are growing.”

She said that our achievements are measured with our continuity as a group and that the message is reaching people and newcomers are joining the collective every day.

Ghonaim added that JRC is aiming for longevity for the group and established for the people that believe sports, fitness and wellness should be for everyone.

“That›s why we have been trying to promote running since day one, along with positivity, inclusivity, diversity, and a welcoming community to all people in the Kingdom.

“The genderless appeal of running and other sports activity are a great way to promote a healthier society and encourages progressive thinking and new possibilities for the Kingdom and for the region.”