Amany Khalil isn’t your typical 50-year-old. Since leaving her successful banking career behind in favour of athletics, she’s participated in numerous long-distance races, including marathons, triathlons and the more challenging Ironman triathlons. eniGma’s Mahmoud Al Badry sat down with the inspirational personality to find out more about her unique story and the keys to her success.
What made you decide to leave your successful banking career and get into athletics?
I had moved to the U.S. with my husband and immediately got pregnant. I started doing aerobics, and as my fitness improved, I took up running. My first competition was a five-kilometre race, where I came in sixth. From there, my endurance increased and I ran a 15 km. race, then a half marathon (21 km.) and finally a full marathon (42 km.), right before returning to Egypt. I found it difficult to run in Cairo. Then, someone told me about a marathon in Luxor, where I came in third and ended up meeting Maadi Runners. I joined them for runs every Friday and several marathons abroad. In 2014, I did my first triathlon. It changed my life completely.
Was it a struggle for you to follow this athletic path while being a mother of two?
It was a struggle, but as soon as my kids went off to college, I was able to focus more on my progress. Now, I properly do my training in the morning and still manage to sleep early at night. Athletics have definitely forced me to sacrifice a lot of social events. I couldn’t always go out with my husband whenever we wanted, for instance. I’m really lucky to have such a supportive family.
What’s your training regimen like on a normal week?
I usually try to circle the island [Zamalek] every morning at 5 a.m. to avoid traffic and harassment. I would say my average daily distance is approximately five km. When I’m training for something in specific, the distance obviously gets a lot longer, and I also add in cycling with my trainer.
How does participating in competitions in Egypt compare to competing in other locations?
The difference is primarily in terms of organization. I have nothing to worry about when I do my races abroad. It’s beautiful; there’s no harassment and there are safety measures on deck in case of any emergency. However, Egypt does have a Sahl Hasheesh race that is always superbly organized.
Do you think that there’s enough of an audience for people to do major athletic competitions here in Egypt?
There’s obviously a lot more engagement and competitions going on abroad. Nevertheless, despite being in a so-called “danger zone” in Egypt, participating in events is still safe. I actually did all of my training here in Egypt. It’s possible. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be. We just need to do a better job of promoting athletics and our various competitions.
Do you think that being in Egypt was a hurdle to you in any way?
No, I would actually consider it to be an advantage. All the obstacles that I’ve had to face here have only made me better at what I do. Everything may be more challenging here, but that’s not always a bad thing.
Do you hope to inspire more people to get into sports?
I started all of this for me. It was my dream. I honestly didn’t know that it would influence so many people the way it has. I’ve received so many nice messages from people, especially from younger generations. That makes me really happy. I want everyone to know that no matter where you are or how much money you have, you can do this if you want to. Running is for free at the end of the day.