Rahaf Khatib has run six marathons in the last two years. On Monday, she’ll run her seventh — the Boston Marathon — for Syrian refugees.
The 33-year-old runner is the daughter of Syrian immigrants and from Michigan, a state with one of the highest number of Syrian refugees in the country.
For her, raising money for refugees was a response to a “deep need” that she says she saw within her community. So far she’s raised $16,000.
“Where I live, it’s a crisis,” Khatib explained, “I personally as a stay-at-home mom couldn’t contribute financially and I felt like I had to help.”
So, she decided to help by running.
“This is giving back to both humanity and giving back to the running community,” she said.
Khatib has gained fame in the running community: she’s the first woman wearing a hijab to be featured on Women’s Running magazine and has grown a following on her Instagram account @runlikeahijabi.
She says she started running five years ago, but she never expected to gain such a following. “I never really imagined myself as a figure on social media. I’m just an average joe runner who’s trying to make a point and break stereotypes,” she said.
“Everyone I followed on social media was a white runner, running is a very predominantly white sport. You don’t see many hijabi runners out there,” she said.
When she started her blog and Instagram account, she just wanted to provide answers that she couldn’t find online about running as a hijabi, answers to questions like: How do you cover up and run in the summer months? What kind of training schedule do you follow when you’re fasting during Ramadan?
She’s now gained a following of thousands of Instagram followers,
“They need support,” she said. “They are our guests in our country, and we need to be good to our guests. And how can I not help? They’re in my backyard.”