Day in the Life: Ironman's gruelling fundraiser for 2023 Dubai Fitness Challenge

Souleymane Ghani is running, swimming and cycling for up to 16 hours a day to raise money for disadvantaged children in the emirate

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“A day in the life” allows you to step into the shoes of a UAE resident to experience a typical 24 hours in their work and home life

Working out is an integral part of Souleymane Ghani's daily routine – and for 30 days this month he's taking endurance sports to another level.

As part of the Dubai Fitness Challenge, the Togolese athlete is tackling land, sea and sleep deprivation to complete 30 Ironman challenges in 30 days.

The Ironman is considered to be one of the most gruelling physical feats, involving a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycle and a 42km run – which Mr Ghani has successfully completed every day since the challenge began on October 28.

Mr Ghani, who is an adidas ambassador and running coach, is raising money for Heroes of Hope, a charitable branch of Al Jalila Foundation, which supports children with disabilities in developing sporting, social and interpersonal skills.

Here, The National joins him during his Ironman challenge, prefixed with a stern warning from Mr Ghani: don't try this at home.

Souleymane Ghani runs from Hatta to Dubai

Souleymane Ghani runs from Hatta to Dubai

4am: Diving into the day

Every day during the Dubai Fitness Challenge, Mr Ghani rises at 4am after only two hours of sleep to fit in 16 hours of gruelling exercise.

“Lack of sleep is the hardest part of the challenge as I’m putting my body through so much and there’s no time to recover,” says Mr Ghani.

“Luckily I have a team of doctors on hand to keep a close eye on my health, but it can be tough at times.”

After his morning prayer, Mr Ghani heads to Kite Beach, where he starts his three-hour swim around 6am.

“The swimming is my weakest part and it takes me a while to cover the 3.8km distance,” he says.

“Once that’s done I usually have a smashed egg croissant for breakfast at 95 Degrees cafe and then make my way towards Meydan to start the cycling.”

Noon: Hitting the road

Throughout the day, Mr Ghani drinks nutrient-packed shakes on the go to keep his energy levels high.

“I can’t eat too much as exercising on a full stomach is tough and would slow me down,” he says.

“It’s better to have small and regular snacks to keep me going throughout the day.”

In the afternoon, Mr Ghani heads to DxBike in Meydan to start cycling, which usually takes around eight hours.

In total he pedals a staggering 180km each day, in a laborious test of mental and physical tenacity.

“It can be hard mentally but if I start to struggle, I think about why I’m doing it and the difference it’s going to make to the charity and the children,” he says.

“I just tell myself to shut up and keep going. So far, I’ve raised over Dh8,000 ($2,178) and that gives me strength to carry on when it gets tough.”

9pm: The final straight

As night draws in, it's far from over for Mr Ghani who continues pounding the pavements of Meydan on foot.

“I run for around four or five hours, stopping now and again for a 15-minute power nap if I’m exhausted,” he says.

“I also stop to pray and to eat something small or have a shake, but most of the time I’m just running towards the finish line.”

Mr Ghani usually runs alone, though sometimes he is joined by members of the running community which gives him a big boost in morale.

“Having the support of the community is huge and I’m thankful for everyone who has sponsored me with equipment or even just gives me a free cup of coffee,” he says.

“This challenge is the most difficult one I’ve done so far, but it isn’t about me breaking personal records or testing my abilities.

“I’m doing this to support Heroes of Hope in building a sporting community where children of determination can thrive.”

You can make a donation here.

Updated: November 10, 2023, 12:20 PM