Student sets up running club so other Muslim women feel safe when exercising

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A 21-year-old who set up a club so other Muslim women could feel safe and comfortable when exercising said she is proud to have inspired a group to take part in the Vitality Big Half later this month.

Sahra-Isha Muhammad-Jones set up the ASRA running club after feeling uncomfortable running outside.

She told the PA news agency: “When I was 18, I had just finished my A-levels and decided I wanted to get back into running because I used to do it when I was younger. However, by that time I started wearing the hijab.

“And I didn’t really feel comfortable running outside, just as a young woman in general.”

Ms Muhammad-Jones tried to find running clubs that she felt comfortable enough to be part of, but could not find one where she felt like she “fit in”.

The idea to start her own running club came after she sought support from other Muslim women on social media who felt similarly.

It was important to Ms Muhammad-Jones to listen to their voices when setting up ASRA, she said, adding: “I wanted to make sure that whatever I was going to create actually represented what they wanted and basically make it a space for us, by us.

“The first thing that I did was book in a track that was exclusively for us. I’d have the key, I’d made sure that it would be locked when you start the sessions and we’d all go home together after.

“Having that space for us to just run without having to answer why we’re there is important. It’s not some revolutionary thing – we’re just running and we’re all there with the same cause and same interest.”

The club provides a space for Muslim women to feel safe without needing to run on public roads and allows them to take off their hijabs should they wish to during exercise. The group also hosts panel discussions on mental health and overall wellbeing.

Ms Muhammad-Jones said she wanted to create a space “for women who don’t want to run with men” and to create an environment where women can feel “comfortable in what they’re wearing” and not “worry about any one other thing than running”.

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