My Choice for (Little) Man of the Year
Nine-year-old Usaid Arshid is my choice. His father is runner-up. I met them in Rahat last year when I was watching the Rahat Marathon. I was charmed by Usaid and amazed by his father. We don’t usually name a man or woman of the year for the Jewish New Year, but when Hamid Arshid called me, asking me if I could write something in English for Usaid’s school, I suddenly felt the same sense of wonderment that I had felt when meeting Usaid in person after he finished running.
From a northern Israeli town near Acre (Jadeida-Makr), Usaid is an athlete Israel’s sports world should be watching. His ambition is to run ultramarathons, races 50 to 150 kilometers long (or more), on trails and mountains. There is only one location in Israel where an ultramarathon can be held so Hamid participates in European races.
Usaid will happily participate in all marathons, but when he hears that the race will be over hilly countryside, he gets particularly energized. “You can see his excitement,” his father says. And he wakes up at midnight easily when the race is on the other side of the country and he and his father need to set out to be at the starting line on time.
He wasn’t always like this.
Hamid (42) is his coach. Hamid started running at 14 and physical fitness and health have always been important to him. Therefore, he and his wife were concerned when they saw that at 4 years old, Usaid was not a physically active child; he was weak, did not play with other children, and sat along the sidelines watching. They were about to take him for psychotherapy when, on a whim, Hamid strapped him onto his back and headed out for a marathon in the hills. He decided that having his son accompany him on the race was more important than winning it.
That proved to be a life-changing event for little Usaid. He was bitten by the running-bug. Since that time, he has opened up, engages in all kinds of sports, and has many friends. No longer on the sidelines, he goes on stage at his school to tell his schoolmates about running and how good it is for the body and the soul. He has even appeared on television, talking about the significance of running and his message for children watching the programme was to start running. I have no doubt the interviewers were as charmed as I was by this child.
Usaid has had a positive influence on at least 16 other schoolmates whose parents asked Hamid to coach them in running as well. While they do not have Usaid’s dream of ultramarathons, participating in running as a hobby provides them with a solid base upon which to build their lives, teaching them discipline, dedication, and teamwork.
Marathons for Usaid’s age group are 2 to 3 kilometers in length but he likes to run 5, and even 10, kilometers, lengths run by adolescents and adults. To train him properly, Hamid has to pace him and keep him running with those his age. He will participate in an ultramarathon in Europe when he is ready for the 5-kilometer section of the race designed for children – with his father running separately on the adult track.
Hamid says running the ultramarathon clears your head when you are alone surrounded only by the quiet of nature. He says it teaches you to break the barriers within you as you struggle with the difficulty of the run. “I don’t win these races,” says Hamid, “but I win myself.”
This will likely not satisfy Usaid and this determined and ambitious little boy will probably grow up to be an ultramarathon champion. And all of us can learn something from seeing his example of aiming for mastery.