Fasting and speeding

Race Across the World star Emon Choudhury's new challenge is closer to home

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Emon Choudhury rose to fame when he won BBC Two’s Race Across the World and donated half the prize money, stealing the nation’s heart. Ever since he’s embarked on challenges to raise more for disadvantaged children, but his kindhearted nature isn’t a new trait. It has been a generational effort for the Choudhurys. 

Choudhury’s mission to help the less fortunate started in childhood. His father, who passed away last year, built an orphanage in Bangladesh, which his family visited regularly. Choudhury grew up with disadvantaged children and saw first hand how they “don’t really have a chance without a helping hand.” 

He adds: “I’ve seen my dad help hundreds and hundreds of kids over the last 40 years, and I want to carry on this legacy that he’s built.”

Choudhury’s whole family is involved in the effort. They continue to donate monthly to help with the running of the orphanage in honour of his late father. 

In adulthood, Choudhury still regularly visits the orphanage and talks to the kids he has helped. 

He details an encounter from the orphanage that has stayed with him. The nine-year-old boy shared his name, which Choudhury thought was an unusual one.

He began asking the young boy about his background, parents and village. But, the boy didn’t know where he came from, telling Choudhury his parents left him outside the orphanage when he was two weeks old.”

“I asked him, how did you get your name then. He goes: ‘Your dad named me.'”

His most recent project is to raise money to build a school in Nepal

It’s stories like this and seeing first hand how children have to live in developing world countries that have inspired Choudhury to dedicate his life to helping those less fortunate than himself. 

His most recent project is to raise money to build a school in Nepal. “There’s an orphanage there already, so we’re building a school next door to it for [the children] to be educated and give them a chance in life.”

Teaming up with charity Orphans in Need, the target is to raise £100,000 to build the foundations for the school. He has already raised over £30,000 and has received over 400 donations via his JustGiving page. 

Determined to hit the six-figure mark, Choudhury has taken on challenge after challenge, including running three marathons over a month. Now, he takes on his biggest one yet: running the Manchester Marathon – all 26.2 miles – while fasting. 

“Every year, I try to challenge myself to do something a bit out of the norm, a bit mad. Last year, I did the Ramadan challenge, where I ran 200km in the month while fasting. Every day I was running 7-8km. 

“Fasting is a big part of the calendar for us Muslims. It’s a great time to reflect about what you are doing and how you are set in life, for myself anyway. So I’m using this Ramadan to challenge myself to run a full marathon while fasting.”

The challenge comes from not being able to eat or drink after crossing the finish line

The physical aspect is not a problem for him. The challenge comes from not being able to eat or drink after crossing the finish line. He says: “It’s during that time that I get really bad headaches and I’ve got to sit down.” 

Not only is he completing this challenge as a part of Ramadan but he wants to show how important it is to have readily accessible drinking water. 

“People around the world are doing this kind of distance for food and water. I’m doing it as a challenge whereas for millions of people in the world that is their daily life.”

Born in Gatley, Greater Manchester, and now living in Bradford, Choudhury will have plenty of support in Manchester to cheer him over the finish line. He says that will be the thing to see him through. 

Despite winning Race Across the World with his nephew – when they travelled 15,000 miles from Mexico City to Argentina without flights, phones or bank cards – and having run in groups in past marathons, Choudhury will be running alone this time as he’s the “only mad one that will actually do it”.

He wants to create a project that everyone can get involved with by showing his audience where the donations are going. He plans to document everything, from his training process to the “first brick being laid” in Nepal. 

Further down the line, he wants to invite people to the school to not just see the process of it being built but to talk to the children directly. “The interaction means more to them than the actual money that you give.”

You can cheer on Choudhury and the 24,000 other runners on 3 April. The marathon will start at 10am at the Trafford Arch on the A56 before going through Manchester city centre, Stretford, Sale, Altrincham, and then back toward Old Trafford to cross the finish line. 

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