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Harvey Lewis

Harvey Lewis Became Ultrarunner Despite Learning Difficulties

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How One Inspiring Man Conquered His Learning  Difficulties to Become a Teacher and World-class Athlete

By Alice Hunter Morrison, Moroccan-based Journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, RunUltra, and Special Correspondent to Hope So Bright

June 27, 2016

6E1A5136_MDS Harvey Lewis - Fresh Start Photo - John & Dawn Borntrager-34Harvey Lewis is a world-class champion, a lean, mean running machine, and a high school teacher of Economics and Government. He is an Ambassador for Hope So Bright, working to raise awareness about autism and ADHD and he is engaged to his beautiful fiancée, Kelly. By any measure, he is a very successful man – someone to be looked up to and admired. But that wasn’t always the case.
When he was young Lewis was fat, in fact, he was the second biggest boy in school. He was also categorized as having learning difficulties and was put in a special education class. “I was put into the Learning Disability classes. I was embarrassed by it,” said Lewis, “It was rough. In first grade, I got F’s on all of my English assignments. Writing was my worst skill. My teacher put me in the back because I was naughty. My parents had gotten divorced and my attention wasn’t there.”
Then a couple of things happened that were to change his life forever. The first thing was that Lewis went on a long hiking trip in Wyoming with his dad and the weight dropped off of him. The second was that he entered the Cleveland Marathon at age 15. Lewis finished the marathon, even though he had never run half the distance before and that gave him what he really needed self-confidence. “That changed things,” said Lewis, “My mindset changed. I thought to myself, this means that anything is possible. It’s what you put into it. After that, I got all B’s and above for the rest of high school. There was nothing that was going to stop me.”
6E1A7643_MDSLewis truly understands how children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD often feel. “They have lost hope. If you feel you are always going to fail, you don’t put in any effort,” he said. “It becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy.”
Lewis now teaches Economics and Government to 11 th and 12 th graders at the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He works with up to 130 kids a day and many of them are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD. He says that as many as a quarter of them might say they have ADHD, for which the school has an excellent program in place, but you have to remember that kids are kids and that it’s generally hard for many of them to sit still hour after hour in a classroom.
Added to that, modern life has changed the family unit, the way we communicate and, most importantly, our diet.
“Kids now are living with instant, changing technology. They are scrolling through Instagram, then looking at Facebook or a video. Concentration is different. One thing I have observed is that kids who are in orchestra or ballet are able to concentrate better, they have a little bit more focus.” Harvey Lewis - Fresh Start Photo - John & Dawn Borntrager-57
Lewis also says that the way children eat is a real problem. “A lot of the kids come to school and they’ve had chips, soda, doughnuts, or a Frappuccino…It’s not adequate and it doesn’t promote concentration. It only provides short-term energy. These are unhealthy choices. Kids are not eating properly.”
Everyone agrees that children should eat a healthy, balanced diet, but with many kids now living in single-parent homes or homes where both parents work, it can be a real challenge to make sure that food is home-cooked and nutritious. We live in an instant gratification world. This is something that Lewis believes we really need to prioritize. “We should have a serious push on teaching nutrition. Without that, everything else falls apart,” says Lewis.
Another major issue is fitness or the lack of it. “For some kids, walking to the bus stop is the only exercise they get. In lots of states, they have cut back on gym class because of budgets, which means there is no positive outlet for kids to expend their energy. The body is not regulated.”
Harvey Lewis - Fresh Start Photo - John & Dawn Borntrager-29Lewis continues, “I feel mentally and physically at my best when doing some form of fitness. Just 30 minutes a day. If we started off with yoga it could really have a calming effect. At the moment, we want the quickest solution for those with learning disabilities, just give them a pill. Of course, there are cases where that is necessary but it seems to me that we are not educating children about coping mechanisms, which will be beneficial to them throughout life.”
As someone who has actually walked this walk and has conquered his early problems to go on and have a full and productive life, Harvey Lewis is an inspiration to others. He believes that with the right support and attention, with correct diet and exercise, huge steps forward could be made for many children.
Harvey Lewis - Fresh Start Photo - John & Dawn Borntrager-24His story is one of hope and triumph against adversity. Lewis believes that his early struggle and the fact that he conquered his problems have given him strength in his later life and helps him when he is facing a challenging time or a really tough race. This is what he has to say, “I am thankful I went through it, it was a hell of a struggle but I had to get through it, and I did.”
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mohamad-ahansal

Moroccan Athlete to Run Hardest Marathon on Earth in California

Morocco world news

By Tatiana Flowers

Rabat – Mohamad Ahansal from JbelBani, Morocco, has been invited by the United States to run “Badwater,” one of the world’s toughest foot races in America.  

The nonstop race comprises 135 miles (217k) of mountainous terrain and it starts in one of the hottest climates in the world, in Badwater, Death Valley, California. The starting point is at 280 feet (85m) below sea level and finishes in Mount Whitney at 8,300 feet (2,530m).
Moroccan Athlete will run a total of three mountain ranges, spanning 14,600 feet (4,450m) vertically, and 6,100 feet (1,859m) in ascension. On July 18, 2016, he will compete against some of the strongest male and female marathoners in the world, running for an organization called “Hope So Bright,” which raises awareness of autism, affecting one in 10 American children.
“I will be doing my very last bit of training for Badwater here in Morocco with a fast run up our highest mountain. It will be a special run from Marrakech to Toubkal summit 4167m; 78 km with 4000 m+ climbing … We will be leaving on 9 July at 00:00 from Bab Rob in Marrakech if anyone would like to join,” Ahansal told Morocco World News.
Ahansal is a five-time champion of Marathon Des Sables, one of the hardest races on Earth and equivalent to six full marathons.
He and his brother, Lahcen, who is also an award-winning runner, had not started training until their late teens, but they would unknowingly become conditioned early, growing up in a high altitude with scorching temperatures, and mountainous terrain.  Each day, they ran 7 kilometers to and from school, or 4.3 miles in distance.
When Mohamad Ahansal was 17, he ran his first competition against other young men at the Eid Al-Ashor festival. He did not have running shoes, so he wore heavy football sneakers with improper soles. At the starting line, he realized his friends and competitors had proper running sneakers, so he decided to discard his own and run the race barefoot. He finished the race in second place, realizing for the first time, he had a tremendous ability.
Although Moroccan Athlete is well known for his capability of handling such tough foot races, he acknowledges the difficulty of Badwater.
“In a way, it was a crazy decision to sign up. It is almost the same distance, [as Marathon Des Sables] but Marathon Des Sables takes six days and Badwater is non-stop. I have never run this far in one go. Yes, the temperature will be the same, but the quality of the sun will be different. The altitude, the humidity, and the difference between the desert plain and the mountains are all factors. At the start, it is going to be very dry with lots of heat coming up from the ground, and then by the end, you are at high altitude. This is the difficulty,” he said.
Ahansal is internationally known for winning noteworthy, difficult races, including Marathon Des Sables, Fire and Ice, and The Iranian Silk Road. He has also created his own multi-stage race, called the Trans Atlas Marathon.
Last year, an American, Pete Kolstenick, won Badwater.  This year, Moroccan Athlete has a chance at bringing the victory home to Africa.
Mohamad-Ahansal

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