While healthy-living in Egypt is considered a pipe-dream by many, the last few years have ushered in a heightened awareness of fitness, with new concepts, groups and facilities emerging. The cynical among us might consider it a fad, but iconic sports brand, Nike, respectfully disagrees and, in brining the Nike+ Run Club to Egypt, see a real future, entrusting fitness aficionados, Aly Mazher and Mohamed Auf to lead the pack.
We caught up with the twosome ahead of the last Nike+ Run Club run in Sahel.
-Tell us more about being a Nike ambassadors.
Auf: It’s a privilege for me just to be involved with Nike. My ‘ambassadorship’ started four months ago. We travelled to New York to attend a workshop for the launch of the Nike+ Run Club and met 85 ambassadors from all over the world. Nike Town is fantastic; everyone is dedicated, everyone is professional and, most importantly, they have a clear vision. Believe it or not, Nike doesn’t do it just for the money; they really do care about getting more people into sports. I hope we can make an impact in Egypt.
Mazhar: It’s an honour representing such a huge brand. I was a professional football player at one point in my life and I always wanted to be involved with Nike – to be a Nike football star. When I switched to another field, I let go of the idea, so I’m really grateful that it eventually came.
Auf, You are credited with being one of the first people to bring Cross Fit to Egypt – how did it all come about?
Auf: I started training CrossFit in 2010. I was training with Ramy Saleh at the time and we introduced it to Egypt just after the revolution. People were immediately happy with the results; it was something really new. At that time, we were the only ones, along with Nadim Roustoum. The community was really small and we didn’t know what the future held for us. But now, seeing that community getting bigger day after day makes me proud. I love coaching; I love being able to engage and communicate with people. Meeting new faces and helping getting their life back together is the reason I do it.
Can Egypt catch up with other countries in the world of sports and fitness?
Mazhar: We’re an underdeveloped market compared to Europe and the USA. This really limits our work as ambassadors. We’re not achieving our full potential. We’re working on that and we’re trying to minimise the gap. We will do our best so we can prove to the Nike world that the Egyptian market is a strong one and one that has a lot of potential. It can hold up to the projects and the events that they do abroad. I’m certain we’re going to get more exposure and support. But what’s different about Nike+ Run Club is that we’re trying to highlight the sport of running. We’re trying to educate people in every detail; how to run, what to wear, what kind of runs they should do, etc. We’re trying to take a more scientific approach. It’s not just putting on a pair of sneakers and going for a run. We’re looking at long-term goals.
Auf: Abroad, it’s very easy to go for a jog or a run. In Egypt, it’s not that simple. There are few places that you can run comfortably. If you have access to a compound or a club, then you’re lucky. In Europe, it’s different. People have access to many parks, and even Olympic-level tracks, where they can reach their full potential. In Egypt, people have to work a little bit harder.
Have you, as athletes and coaches, gained anything from Nike apart from some free gear?
Auf: Honestly, I learned so much from my coach in New York, especially how he handled so many people; how he was able to deal with so many athletes at once. He was friendly, engaging, professional and very smart in dealing with different personalities. All of those traits rubbed on me and when I arrived back in Cairo, I wanted to pass my knowledge to as many people as possible.
May I test that ‘knowledge’? I’m thinking of going for a run when we’re done here, but I’m feeling lazy – can one of you guys give me a pep talk?
Mazhar: You’re putting us on the spot here, but ok! Each one of us has something that drives him or her. Don’t look at other people and don’t try to imitate anyone. Your drive is different and your drive is unique. You find your own drive. You find what moves you. You find what you like to do. If you’re able to find that, then nothing is going to stop you. If you try to be someone you’re not, if you try pursue something that you’re no completely passionate about, then sooner or later you’re going to lack motivation and you’re going to give up. Find something that you love and find something that will give you self-fulfilment. Nothing is going to stop at that point.
Damn – I can feel the adrenaline rushing through my body already. Let’s do a quick fire-round – Auf, what’s your guilty fast-food pleasure?
Auf: Big Mac and large fries from McDonald’s!
Nice! Aly, what’s the weirdest comment you’ve received on social media?
Mazhar: Someone once asked me if I was gay. I didn’t respond – even if I was gay, that’s not something to be discussed on social media.
Auf, what else do you like to do in your spare time?
Auf: I love cycling and I actually recently bought a new bike. I I’ve taken some trips across Egypt and I’m also into camping. Anything I can consider an adventure.
By Mahmoud Hussein