Since being diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 2013, Muhit Rahman has completed marathons and ultra races while running in depleted oxygen levels 5,000-feet above sea level. The Santa Monica resident has also run 26.2 miles on seven continents but now, in honor of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, he’s partnering with a local organization in hopes of inspiring others to make healthier choices.
“I used to run a mile in high school but never after that. In Bangladesh, I ran competitively but you come to the U.S. and you find out that — okay — a skinny, small kid here is not in the same class. So, for 30-35 years, I didn’t run again,” Rahman said in an interview Wednesday. “But finally, my brother-in-law convinced me to sign up for this marathon in Las Vegas called a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. He was gonna fly out with my sisters and I for a great get-together. And, of course, shortly before that, I get diagnosed with prostate cancer.”
The 64-year-old remembers running his first marathon despite the prognosis before heading to the hospital a month later for his radical prostatectomy, an operation that can cure prostate cancer if it is limited to the prostate. “It all went fine and the doctor told me I can’t run for about eight weeks or so,” Rahman said, sharing he was already signed up for the 2014 Los Angeles Marathon. “I didn’t realize that he didn’t really recommend running a marathon that soon, but you know, everything was fine. And I didn’t have any issues.”
Rahman said marathon people will tell you when you run a marathon, you’ll feel the worst about mile five or six because you’ve been running and you’re a little bit tired but there are still 20 miles to go.
First-timers wonder, “Why am I doing this again?” Rahman added, “but right after the marathon, usually that night or the next night, they’re looking for the next battle. They fire up their computer and look for the next one. So, that’s kind of what happened; I was looking for the next marathon; I think I did a couple more in 2014; then I was just looking around and I see that there is an Antarctica marathon.”
While preparing for his race in the freezing climate, he decided to raise some money for the American Cancer Society and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, which is based in Santa Monica. He raised about $50,000 for the two of them and the amateur marathoner recalls the trip being an all-around great experience.
Soon after departing the Russian icebreakers that carried him North, Rahman found himself competing in races across Europe, South America, Africa and Australia, meaning he only needed to complete a marathon in Asia to join the “Seven Continents Club.”
“I was complaining that I’m one marathon short of doing a marathon on seven continents in seven months,” Rahman said, when a complete stranger from Tokyo sent him registration information to a race in Japan.
“My wife doesn’t run. She gets bored easily with all of my running,” he said. So the loving husband offered to climb Mount Fuji with her on their trip out East.
It was the very last day of the season and two days before the marathon, Rahman said as he detailed how the pair became lost and found themselves dozens of miles away from where they parked their car.
When he headed out to run the marathon 48 hours later, Rahman found himself out of gas.
“This race had a time limit of five hours. And having done the unwise move of climbing Mount Fuji two days before, the five-hour limit was about to pass me. I was about a kilometer from the finish line and I could see it, basically,” he said. But there’s a car that goes around the track, picking up everybody who hadn’t finished at the five-hour line.
Even though he could spot the finish line, time was up so Rahman had no shot at earning a medal. Still, he kept on running.
“So I have photos, which are the only evidence I have of me finishing — my wife taking a photo of me crossing the finish line,” Rahman said. And because official race records show he did not finish, he hasn’t become a member of the seven continents club quite yet. But the local Santa Monican is still proud of how far he’s come and he attributes all of his success to a change in diet.
“Right after getting diagnosed, the first and most important thing (my doctor) told me was that I should make sure to eat right. I took that to heart because I didn’t want to die from cancer… so basically, once I got diagnosed, I switched to a healthy diet,” Rahman said. “I didn’t become vegetarian, but I gave up pretty much all red meat and started eating a lot more vegetables. So you can certainly say that I made a change in lifestyle, and I presume that the change in diet helped me have greater energy and supported me in running all these marathons and races.”
As he shared how residents can receive healthy eating tips and more information on the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s #EatItToBeatIt campaign at pcf.org/eat, Rahman said, “I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about (cancer) until I got diagnosed with it during a physical… And with hindsight to everything that has happened since then, I would say you don’t control too many things in your life. But what do you do control is what to eat and your exercise habits.”
“So, if I had any advice to give to people, I would say you must exercise and you must eat right,” Rahman added. “That doesn’t mean that you have to deprive yourself of anything that you like,” but eating a balanced diet and a variety of vegetables and fruits is truly best.