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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

OPINION: Men’s Basketball just won’t back down
Abigail Taylor, Contributing writer • February 27, 2024

Chasing Rainbows, part 1

Chasing+Rainbows%2C+part+1

By: Farahnaz Afaq, contributing writer

3 a.m. – the hotel’s wake-up call is ringing while my alarm goes off in the corner of the hotel room. I crawl out of the king-sized bed that I am sharing with my friend Zahra. Blind in the dark, I find my way to the bathroom. I look at myself in the mirror and think to myself that this is another day. The pain is hurting my heart and I am overwhelmed by the feeling that it will stay there forever. But then I slap myself and tell myself that today will be a new beginning.

After months of training like a maniac for my first ever 50-mile running competition, losing my beloved brother only a few days before the race had completely thrown me off course and made me contemplate quitting. But I knew he would have wanted me to compete. “I cannot give up. I have not come this far to give up now. I cannot let my brother, who was an inspiration, down, nor friends who supported and helped me prepare for the race.” I thought fondly of Mac, Joan, Barbara and Roy, Spartanburg family who had taken care of me and made sure I did not lack anything during my training.

I originally signed up for the race to support “Free to Run,” a non-profit organization that empowers and educates women in conflict-affected communities (like many in my native Afghanistan) by providing them access to outdoor activities. Growing up in Afghanistan and as a refugee in Pakistan and Iran, Free to Run’s mission spoke to me. As a child, I was unable to do any kind of outdoor activities or sports, just because I was a woman. I was constantly reminded by my society that the purpose of being a woman was to raise children and take care of the family. There were many things that I was forbidden to do or have because of my gender. In fact, when I was young, I loved the rain because of the likelihood of rainbows appearing. I desperately wanted to walk underneath a rainbow, because of an Afghan myth that said to do so would change your gender – and I wanted nothing more than be a boy.

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Free to Run’s emphasis on sports and desire to give greater confidence to girls by empowering them to do the same things as boys, are what I would have loved to have when I was young, and I was willing to sign up for a 50-mile race to support this great organization.

Then everything changed. In the week before the race, I read the terrible news from Facebook that my brother Sadullah had passed away unexpectedly back home on Friday, Sept. 8. I cried and cried and cried and hoped a family member would tell me that the news was wrong. I kept calling my family, located all around the globe, but none of them answered.

Then, hearing my sister’s voice at 10 p.m., I realized that the news was correct and I was not having a bad dream. It was a harsh reality – it never occurred to me that I might lose my brother at 28 years old. My entire body ached and I felt my heart was on fire. I wanted to be with my family so badly to share the grief. But I was in my room surrounded by Joan, Barbara and my roommates, Elena and Juliana, who were confused and did not know the reasons behind my screams and crying. Running was the last thing on my mind. And yet here I was, on the morning of race day on Sept. 16, somehow trying to get through the day and survive a brutal 50-mile run.

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