“I loved running. I had the best race of my life and I was so excited. That feeling! You know that feeling? And they took it away from me that day. Anyone should be able to excel at what they love without these roadblocks of discrimination.”
In 2019, 17-year-old Noor Abukaram ran the best, fastest cross-country race of her life at a local meet in Ohio. But when she checked the results afterward, her name wasn’t there. She learned — in what she describes as “a humiliating way” — that she had been disqualified before the race even started. For wearing a hijab.
Noor — who was raised in a Muslim family and started wearing a traditional head and neck covering as a teenager — shared her story from that day, of being disqualified for rules unbeknownst to her, and it quickly went viral. And so she turned her heartache into advocacy. She founded “Let Noor Run,” a campaign to raise awareness about religious-based discrimination in sports and beyond. She successfully helped change the laws and legislation that protect the freedom of religious expression for athletes in Ohio. And at only 19 years old, she just starred in an ESPN film that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
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What you’ll get on this episode:
- What Young Noor was like growing up (3:30)
- How Noor became a runner (9:30)
- What Noor’s early high school experience was like (14:00)
- Why wearing a hijab means so much to Noor (21:00)
- On attending an Islamic school but playing sports at the local public high school (25:00)
- The cross-country meet in Ohio that changed everything for Noor (30:50)
- How “Let Noor Run” was born (37:00)
- What it was like going viral (43:00)
- On seeing an opportunity for change in a crappy situation (50:30)
- Noor’s willingness to be an advocate (53:30)
- Noor gives us all the “SB 181 101” — what it means and what it does as a law (59:20)
- How all of this has affected Noor’s relationship with running (1:01:35)
- Noor’s dreams for the future (1:04:20)
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