Two days after running the streets of D.C. for more than six hours, junior Layla El-Wafi donned her commemorative T-shirt from the 25th Annual Marine Corps Marathon with her hijab attire. The hijab concept is the Muslim tradition for modesty, which requires women to cover all body parts.
El-Wafi ran the 26.2-mile race on Sunday the same way, covering her body with long sleeves, pants and a scarf, all made of lightweight material. She trained in the same gear throughout the past six months, braving the summer heat without a second thought.
The hijab is flexible and can facilitate an easier lifestyle and earns people’s respect, she said. El-Wafi said that her traditional Islamic attire proves people can do things they feel incapable of, without forgetting who they are.
She finished 16,143rd out of 25,000 runners, with a time of 6:18:23. El-Wafi did not set any records or overcome a debilitating illness, she said; she was just a college student committed to achieve her goals and expand her faith to every aspect of life.
El-Wafi decided to begin training for the marathon six months ago, one year after she had already begun living a healthier lifestyle.
This was a way to raise the bar and keep me motivated, she said.
After losing the freshman 15, El-Wafi said she decided to push for a healthier mind, body and spirit, including challenging herself with physical fitness.
It changed my lifestyle completely, she said.
She began running in the Whitman Walker Clinic marathon training program in April to prepare for this month’s marathon. The training program began with a three-mile course, which the runners tackled in packs to keep each other motivated.
That morning when we did the three miles, we thought we conquered the world, El-Wafi said reflecting back on the training program that increased in distance each week.
El-Wafi said she began Sunday morning’s race with her regular running group, but got separated from them as the miles wore on.
I ran by myself, it made the victory sweeter, she said.
The individuality El-Wafi felt when she ran heightened her personal identity, she said.
It was a metaphor for how I live my life, as an individual, she said. There was only myself, my reliance on God and belief in myself to do it.
El-Wafi said non-conformity was essential in deciding to enter the marathon.
My own truths, beliefs and the Islamic lifestyle mean peace and a peaceful lifestyle, she said. Running is just another means of expression.
The course, which started and ended at the Marine Corps War Memorial, toured Georgetown, the National Mall, the Tidal Basin and the Pentagon. At the finish line, El-Wafi was congratulated and presented with a medal by the Marines.
El-Wafi’s relatives were on hand to see her through the race – a rare gathering for her dispersed family.
My parent’s were encouraging, she said.
As she sat among friends and family, El-Wafi said that she felt a sense of awe surrounding the memorial, full of the courage, ideals and beliefs of the Marines.
They are the toughest of the tough, she said. For a moment, I felt like I was a part of that.