Known as the “runner dressed in suit,” Bilal Gul is representing Turkey at the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon that kicked off in the Kalahari Desert, South Africa on Oct. 28. Wearing a different suit every day and matching ties patterned like the Turkish flag, Gul will run 250 kilometres in one of the world’s hottest deserts. “To draw attention to the hardships of cystic fibrosis patients and their families, I will endure this hot desert and run 250 kilometres, dressed in a suit and tie, carrying a 15-kilogram backpack,” the Turkish athlete told fascinated reporters after finishing day four of the weeklong event.

The Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon, attended by only 100 runners from around the globe, is known as a “self-sufficient run.” The participants are not provided with any food or water, rather they are allowed to carry around 15 kilograms of supplies in their backpacks. They also face the risks of coming face to face with venomous snakes or other wild animals in the desert where temperatures can reach as high as 50 degrees Celsius. Runners are not also allowed to receive any outside help and even a tiny mistake can cause a runner to get disqualified.

Gul, born in Malatya in 1982, started pursuing athletics as a hobby to quit smoking and lose weight when he was working as a serviceman for a home appliance company. He had his first ultra-experience at the Cekmekoy 60-kilometre running competition. Unable to finish the run, he met another participant, Huseyin Burgaz at the event. Since then, the two have supported each other on the tracks and made huge improvements over time. In March 2016, they ran a 42-kilometer marathon in suits for the first time at the Antalya Marathon to promote their group. They completed the race in 4 hours 11 minutes and have come to be known as the “suit runners.”

All dressed up, Gul and Burgaz have so far attended many races, including the Istanbul Marathon, the HaliC Half-Marathon, the Ultra Marathon, the Gallipoli Marathon, the Cappadocia Ultra Marathon, the Erciyes Ultra Sky Trail Mountain Marathon, the Salt Lake Trail, the Frig Ultra Marathon, the Iznik Ultra Marathon and the Nashira Ultra Marathon. They also attended the International Friendship Marathon that crossed from Edirne to Greece, of course in suits and Turkish flag-patterned ties. Because of their outfits, they have earned different nicknames in different races, like “tax officers,” “bride kidnappers,” “celebrity bodyguards,” “magicians,” “waiters” and “special agents.”

They have also carried out social responsibility projects and promoted athletics. Their first social responsibility project was launched to pay for the sports equipment of 20 students in Bayat, Afyon. Bilal Gul is currently raising awareness for the nearly 20,000 Turkish children suffering from Cystic Fibrosis.

Source:  Daily Sabah

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