Fathi Bendjebbour

Ex-Handball Pro

My name is Fathi, I am 39 years old and I once was a professional handball player. During my career, I never really had to do much to stay in shape. But when my career ended I got a sedentary job, I didn’t really work out anymore and consequently I gained 45 pounds. No surprise so far. You all know how it fathigoes. At that time, my two best friends posed this challenge: Sign up and run the ‘20km de Paris’ race with us. 20km! Phew. As I found out later the guy holding the course’s record, Evans Cheruiyot, ran the entire distance in only 57:19 minutes. Not bad. And I didn’t have to think more than 1 second about my answer: Of course I said no. I had been telling myself that I was just not good enough anymore. I felt like my energy was gone and I couldn’t take on such a challenge. But my friends kept on insisting. And eventually they got me thinking. There was still a lot of time left until the next “20km de Paris” - maybe it wasn’t impossible. Or was it? At the first training session I was not able to keep up with my friends for more than 20 minutes. But looking back, those sessions really were the turning point for me. I was back in the game. The first steps literally are the hardest. I was careful with my nutrition and very focused. My typical routine was this: getting up at 6AM and running for half an hour. Then exercising at home. Then breakfast - with a lot of seeds and grains, dried fruits and pistachios. I did all the research myself and I learned pistachios are a great source of protein and potassium. Exactly what I needed for my challenge. I wanted to lose weight and keep up with the others. Nothing else really mattered. After some time my muscle memory kicked in and so did my top athlete’s mindset. After one year of preparation I really did it. I ran the “20km de Paris” in 1 h 19 min. Hearing thousands of people cheer when I passed the finish line was an incredible experience. None of them could have guessed why I was so proud of myself at that moment. They had no clue that only a year ago this wouldn’t have been possible for me. That I had been a different person back then. And 45 pounds heavier. When I passed that finish line three people knew what I had accomplished. My two best buddies and me. So guys, whatever your next challenge is: I’m ready.