With a slew of triathlons, mountaineering, adventure racing, fitness contests, not to mention three Ironman competitions under his belt, Ahmed Al Majed still doesn’t deem himself as a professional athlete but we beg to differ.

Tell us about yourself please.

I come from a typical Kuwaiti background. From the time I was born to when I got married, everything was planned out for me. School. University. Family connections to get work. It was either in my first or second year of university when I was studying political science, I was hit with severe depression. I really didn’t know what I wanted from life. I had everything and hamdela, I was well taken care of but I was thought: what is my purpose? I was overweight at +95KG. I didn’t do sport and thrived on junk food and cigarettes. I decided I wanted to change. I decided to buy a bike. I really liked it. It was this cheap Chinese-made bicycle you got in town. Within two weeks, I’d broken the pedal so I bought another one; this time a top-of-the-range bike. I found that I really loved cycling and did it everyday. Then I brought myself a Trek bike. This was like the Ferrari of bicycles. I didn’t have the courage to anyone how much I paid for it – 400KWD – which was a lot back then. It turned out to be the best investment I’ve ever made in my life. I lost over 20kg and gained confidence. Initially no one supported the idea. Mum was neutral but dad wasn’t; seeing a man clad in stretchy Lycra wasn’t the norm back then.

How did you start competing?

A friend of mine told me about this race in Souq Sharq and nagged me to no end about participating in it. At the time I liked staying in my comfort zone and was not at all competitive in nature but I finally relented. I was so nervous and overwhelmed with anxiety that I couldn’t sleep for two days prior to the event. It was a little race – 10km with about 70 cyclists. My mindset was to just do my best. Lo and behold, I won. On the podium I was in shock. I got my prize money and the next day I was in the media. I can’t say this in front of my wife but winning this race was the best day of my life! My self-esteem changed and I became more competitive, participating in more cycling races and the odd triathlon.

Why triathlons?

I wanted a new challenge. Cycling was my top performer but I knew just beyond the basics when it came to running and swimming. I’d push through with swimming, create a gap with my cycling and just do my best at running.

The Iron Man: Exclusive Uncut Interview With Ahmed Al Majed

Tell us about Extreme Sports.

Every time I wanted a piece of sports kit, I had to travel abroad to get it. So I thought why don’t we have such a speciality store with this service in Kuwait? We started Extreme Sports in 2004 and it was for sure not the best business idea. Fitness and sport was still in its infancy and no one wanted anything from our store.

I also understand you then took the opportunity to go back and study.

I was working at a bank and in 2006 I resigned and applied for my degree in sports management. I saved up, got a loan, and applied for my Masters Degree in Sport Management and was promptly accepted at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland – IMD Business School.

What possessed you to do the Ironman?

It was always my dream but I thought I wasn’t capable. In my last six months of Switzerland, I decided to apply and was accepted. Training is grueling as you’ve to commit about 25 hours a week to working out.

I have these two mentors, Dr. Emad Dashti and Dr. Abdulrahman Almuhailan and I spoke to Dr. Dashti and was showing that I had been accepted. I wasn’t really planning on doing it. Then one morning I received a surprise package from Dr Dashti with an ironman training DVD and a note wishing me luck and that he’ll see me on the finish line of the race on July 16 2007. So now I really had to do it. And I’m proud to say I did it by the book and was amazed by the outpouring of love and support my family and friends showed me. Everyone flew to Frankfurt, Germany where the event was; my family, best friends and Dr. Dashti came from California. I had about 15 people in my entourage who cheered me from start to finish and I ended up clocking the race in 11hours and 42 minutes.

What are some of the exotic places you’ve raced at?

One of my earlier races was in Lebanon through Red Bull. I did the Snow to Sea challenge where you end up skiing, mountain biking, trailing running and kayaking. I’ve also competed in Russia, Morocco, Macau, Australia, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Japan and Africa to name a few. The Marathon De Sables- was an ultra marathon I took park in, in the Sahara dessert in 2009. The toughest single stretch I ran was 97km straight.

What’s the most challenging thing about racing overseas?

The terrain; if it’s too uphill and downhill. Also I don’t perform too well in cold weather.

Tell us about adventure racing.

Adventure racing is a race of different disciplines; mountain biking, trail running, kayaking, rope activities and orienteering. You compete in teams of four. You get the map 24 hours before the race. There are no phones, just a brick of a tracker and a flare for emergencies. There are no rules, you just have to do the checkpoints in order and it’s up to you to decide when you want to sleep, eat, etc. The winning team is the one who completes it in the shortest time span.

How did you get into this?

After the Ironman, I wanted something more challenging but three years ago when I wanted to do it, no one here was interested. I scouted around the Internet and joined some forums. Someone from Australia contacted me about being in their team for a 10-day race in the outback of Queensland, Australia. I flew to Australia and met my team three days before the race. It was the first time competing in such an event for all of us. We covered around 700KM and it took us 200 hours and 10 minutes to finish it and we only slept a total of 11 hours in the whole competition. We placed 22nd out of 56 with just 29 teams making it to the finish line.

The Iron Man: Exclusive Uncut Interview With Ahmed Al Majed

Which tougher: Australia or Africa?

Australia was tough because the terrain was long and difficult; in the extreme heat and cold. And we were wet most of the time. We ended up kayaking 98km in the ocean at one point. Africa was the best place in terms of scenery.

What’s the worse race/adventure you’ve take part in?

Ironman Japan in 2010 the reason was the high humidity of 97 percent. And my climbing experience in Mount Elbrus in Russia, I had a severe mountain sickness.

What’s next on the agenda in terms of racing?

I’d love to do the Patagonia expedition in South America. It’s the pinnacle of adventure racing so fingers crossed it happens.

What’s your purpose now?

To change people’s lives for the better. We do it through Pro-Vision Sports Management and Extreme Sports; organizing events to increase awareness on the importance of incorporating exercise in one’s lifestyle. When we started Pro-Vision Sports Management in 2009, we had 200 participants at our events. Last year, we had a total of 15,800 participants and that’s an amazing turnout for our country.

 

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