The Challengers: Moe

October 6, 2017

Mohammed “Moe” Elzubier isn’t running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon this Sunday, Oct. 8 — his seventh marathon in the last 18 months — because he likes to run. He dreads the cramps, the dehydration, the pain — during and after. People often ask him why he even does it.

But Elzubier is no stranger to taking on challenges in life and at work.

An immigrant from Sudan, Elzubier felt overwhelmed by adapting to a new world & learning English after his move the United States. He felt similarly overcome as an engineer by the knowledge gap from college to the real world. And when he started training with the goal of a running a marathon, he couldn’t even do a 5K. But through it all, Elzubier ignored the naysayers, the voice inside his head that “would tell me I can’t, I won’t” — the voice that told him to “give up and quit.” And he overcame those obstacles, one by one.

Undeterred, he read children’s books at the library after school to improve his English. He built up his knowledge of engineering in school and in the field. With each extra mile and minute of training, he improved his endurance.

That’s why Elzubier, who supports operations at the Flint Hills Resources plant in Port Arthur, Texas, is one of more than 300 Koch employees embracing another kind of challenge by lacing up for the annual marathon sponsored by Molex, a Koch company headquartered in Lisle, Illinois.

“If I can bring the best that I can do within my ability and limits, then that is the best way I can contribute to my team,” he said.

Facing down a challenge, like a marathon, can feel daunting — even impossible. Five days after returning from a three-week trip to Sudan for his sister’s wedding, Elzubier ran his second-ever marathon. More than halfway from the finish line, his body “completely shut down,” he said.

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After months of training, Moe is ready to hit the pavement this weekend at the 40th annual Chicago Marathon. 

His body, his mind, everything around him told him to give up, but after remembering why he set out to run in the first place — to see what he could become — Elzubier did not.

“I may have to hobble, I may have to crawl, but I will see that finish line,” he remembered thinking. He kept going, reminding himself of his own journey and that of his family’s, and all the sacrifices that they had made. He finished the race a whole hour slower than his first time.

“My spirit, beliefs and heart are the only things that carried me through a time when I was physically and mentally unable to,” Elzubier said. “I run toward my faith, I run for my family, I run toward my goals, I run toward my dreams. I run toward becoming a better, wiser, compassionate, forgiving, loving Moe. I run toward a brighter future that my parents envisioned of me having when they have sacrificed everything to migrate to this new world 14 years ago.”

Fortified by experience and gratitude, Elzubier will run on Sunday, to push himself to be even better — and perhaps challenge others to do the same.

“I run toward my destiny, because I will not wait for it to come to me or for anyone to hand it me,” he said. “And I won’t have it any other way.”

Cheer on Moe and other Koch company runners with the determination to take on the challenge of 26.2 with a message of support/congratulations. They’ll be displayed at the Molex Hospitality tent before and after the marathon: http://socialchicagomarathoncongrats.pagedemo.co/