Muslim Woman Trains for Marathon

October 19, 2000

Source: The Washington Post

On October 19, 2000, The Washington Post reported that, "in the middle of the summer, with the heat bearing down on the sun-baked, dusty gravel path along the C&O Canal in Georgetown, 20-year-old Layla El-Wafi ran with as much ease as her marathon training partners. No matter that she was wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a black head scarf. Her athletic attire may not seem appropriate for a sweltering summer day in Washington--or even for Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon, which she is planning to run. But El-Wafi, 20, is Muslim. She practices the tradition of hijab, which among its tenets encourages women to maintain modesty in dress. Keeping the arms, legs, hair and neck covered is standard practice, regardless of the activity. So when El-Wafi, a junior at George Washington University, decided to train for the Marine Corps Marathon through the AIDS Marathon Training Program, continuing the practice of hijab--in her case, wearing cotton pants and a long-sleeved CoolMax shirt and a black cotton head scarf--did not receive a second thought. 'The concept of hijab is not only a dress code but a whole concept of modesty--covering up what's private," El-Wafi said. "I consider my hair to be private, shown only within my family. A lot of people think it's an oppressed thing, but my life is just the opposite.'"