Running during Ramadan

Kingfield runner trains for Twin Cities Marathon while fasting in observance of the Muslim holy period

Adam Majewski near Lake Harriet. Credit: Photo by Michelle Bruch

On a humid 89-degree day in July, joggers were scarce at Lake Harriet, and those that ventured out were probably mindful to stay hydrated. Adam Majewski, however, hadn’t tasted a drop of water that day. The Kingfield resident is observing his first Ramadan as a Muslim convert this year. He’s also training for his seventh marathon.

“I’m used to running on an empty stomach,” he said, noting that his runs remind him of mile 15 or 16 during a marathon. “It’s actually kind of good for my running because it helps me train for when I’m running on fumes.”

During Ramadan, Majewski is not eating between sunrise and sunset, and he isn’t drinking water — although it’s comforting to swish water in his mouth and spit it out again. He runs five days a week, often late in the evening around 8 p.m. — he made the mistake of running in the mid-day heat on one occasion and passed out afterward. He chugs two or three liters of water before bed, hydrates during the night, and takes the morning meal before the sun comes up. He takes lots of naps to preserve energy, often sleeping in the cool basement.

Majewski doesn’t know any other fasting athletes, but he isn’t alone. Olympian athletes observed Ramadan during the London games in 2012. The New York Times noted that about half of the Moroccan men’s soccer team observed Ramadan, two of them staying for hours after a match attempting to provide a urine sample for drug testers. The fasting Olympians practiced late in the evening, and the cafeterias offered them halal foods 24 hours a day.

Majewski is training for the Twin Cities Marathon in October, and he’s running to raise money for the charity Global Deaf Muslim, based in Virginia. The agency works to make Islam more inclusive and accessible to Deaf Muslims.

The charity strikes a chord with Majewski became his fiancée, Khadra Abdille, is deaf. He met her online shortly after converting to the Muslim faith.

“People with disabilities in the Muslim community are very frowned upon and looked down upon,” he said. “When people think Islam, they think of women who are highly oppressed. A woman who’s deaf is even more oppressed.”

Majewski grew up in Kingfield and attended Washburn High School, where he said most of his friends were Somali Muslims. He went on to learn culinary arts at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). Today he’s working at a Minneapolis restaurant, saving up for his wedding, and pursuing a degree in nutrition in a joint program through the University of Minnesota and MCTC. He also works with City Running Tours, a group that offers guided running tours to travelers.

Majewski’s decision to convert to Islam came during a food and culture class last fall, where he heard presentations from Muslim classmates.

“This is me, this is what I want to do with my life,” he said. “It’s very systematic, and being trained as a cook, most cooks I’ve known are very systematic in their daily lives.”

At a recent iftar where Majewski broke the fast at the end of his workout, he slowly consumed a sandwich, a banana and a bottle of water at Lunds in Uptown. His pants are fitting looser, he said, but he’s filling up at night.

“If it’s in the fridge, I’m probably going to eat it,” he said.

Majewski said he’s dialing down the mileage, but he wants to keep running.

“What motivates me to train is two things,” he said. “My faith, but what motivates me the most, is my fiancée.”