Zahra Arabzada, the “Hijabi Runner,” is an Afghan student, activist, blogger, avid runner and a 2018 Glamour Magazine Top Ten College Woman of the Year. She advocates for more Muslim women to do sports, whilst simultaneously seeking to change the narrative of covered Muslim runners in the West.
Raised in a conservative part of Afghanistan, Zahra has been an activist for women and children's rights from a young age. From Afghanistan’s first boarding school in Kabul, she went on to study at St. George's School in Rhode Island, where she was first introduced to sports. Since then, she has run half a dozen half marathons and marathons, a 50-mile ultra-marathon and is currently training for her second ultra-marathon.
Today, Zahra is an ambassador for Free To Run, which uses adventure sports to support women and girls living in areas of conflict like Afghanistan or Eastern Congo, developing them into community leaders. Her experience of growing up in Afghanistan has inspired many Free to Run supporters in the United States. She has been portrayed in Runner’s World, has given a TedX talk on her experience, and was an International Women’s Day 2018 “Game-Changing” panelist with Boston Marathon pioneer Kathrine Switzer on CBS Boston. Some of her blog entries about fasting and running are currently being transposed into a graphic novel by a former Marvel Comics editor, seeking to create a model for a new generation of Muslim runners.
On her blog she provides non-Muslims an insight into the daily prejudices faced by many hijabi athletes in the West. Recognizing the privilege available to her since her move to the United States, she also aims to encourage Muslim women around the world to take up running.
Zahra is available for interviews and high school talks on request.