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Said goes from sad to super fit for charity

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Over the past two years, Johannesburg marketer Michael Said transformed himself from an overweight and tired 61-year-old to being fit and healthy enough to tackle the demanding David Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge to raise funds to change the lives of kids with cerebral palsy.

“It turned out to be a life-changing experience for me as well,” he says.

About two years ago, Said was at his all-time heaviest, weighing almost 90kg, but by January this year, he had lost 16kg and managed to complete the Goggins Challenge, which involves running or walking four miles (6.4km) every four hours for 48 hours.

Starting the challenge on 1 March, Said went on to walk 77km for more than 48 hours along the streets of Bedfordview. “Not for a millimetre was I ever alone,” he recalls. Old and new friends and even entire families kept him company at different stages throughout the 6.4km course. “A couple of crazies” woke themselves up, “so that I wouldn’t walk the 02:00 shift alone,” he says.

Said describes the Goggins Challenge as a test of endurance, resilience, and dedication. “It reflects the daily struggles of children with cerebral palsy,” he says, “and symbolises our commitment to help them.”

The date of starting the challenge, 1 March, had deep personal significance. “It fell between what would have been my late mother, Sadie’s, birthday on 14 February and the anniversary of her passing on 14 March. My mom was 48 years old when she passed away, and this added significance to the 4x4x48 challenge.”

Undertaking the challenge in the memory of his mother, who instilled in him the value of helping those in need, Said was determined to transform personal loss into a force for positive change. “By supporting children who face daily physical and emotional battles, we not only honour her memory but offer a beacon of hope to those in dire need,” he says.

He raised just more than R12 000 from family and friends, who support many of his initiatives.

On 14 March, 40 years to the day of his mom’s passing, Said joined Boikanyo The Dion Herson Foundation volunteers in taking mobility buggies – specialised wheelchairs – to Tshilidzini Hospital in Shayandima, Limpopo. Said witnessed the remarkable courage of children battling cerebral palsy, the unwavering love of their families, the dedication of hospital staff, the generosity of volunteers, and the kindness of donors. “Together, they form an ensemble of real-life superheroes whose stories of resilience and compassion inspire awe and gratitude,” he says.

The initiative was part of Boikanyo The Dion Herson Foundation’s Chair’ished Children flagship project which has provided hundreds of buggies for impoverished children born with cerebral palsy in rural South Africa.

Said assists the foundation with media that captures and shares the experiences of the outreach programmes he attends.

“My mother instilled in me a sense of purpose and charity and an understanding that I may not be able to change the whole world, but I can change one person’s world,” he says. “This is a personal issue for me. I’m not a man of great wealth, but I’ve always believed that by giving my time, effort, and talents, I can make a real difference in other people’s lives.

“Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Charity remind us that there are certainly more ways to assist others than financial donations. But I’m eternally grateful to those who can assist financially, as they help programmes like this reach so many people.”

At the beginning of 2022, Said was in pretty good shape, but he started indulging in sweets, chocolates, and potato chips. “Coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, my weight shot up, and my health deteriorated,” he says.

Halfway through 2022, he started going to gym and doing intermittent fasting before entering the 75 Hard Challenge, which has “simple yet demanding” rules such as sticking to a diet with no cheat meals or alcohol, and exercising twice daily for 45 minutes. “I added a 36-hour water-only fast,” he says.

Instead of running, Said focuses on Zone 2, low intensity training. “I often do eight to 16km hikes with my 10kg ruck vest. I keep my heart rate as close to Zone 2 as possible,” he says.

He has committed to doing a short triathlon in summer, no small ask for someone who can’t swim, hates open water, seldom rides on the road, and never runs. He’s also planning to hike the Amatola Trail, known as South Africa’s toughest hike.

Said says he has always benefited from his ability to challenge himself. In addition to achieving his physical transformation, he worked his way up from waiter to the marketing manager of one of South Africa’s leading brands, Mugg & Bean.

“I believe that if we put our minds and our hearts to a task, we can accomplish it,” he says. “Another thing that has helped me along the way is that I’m not afraid to ask for help. There are people out there with more knowledge, skills, and resources than I have, and I’m not afraid to reach out to them for assistance.”

Said believes we live comfortable lives, so comfortable, that they are to our detriment. “Sadly, many are simply unable to cope the moment things don’t go according to plan,” he says. “We need to challenge ourselves on every level as often as possible, be it physically, emotionally, or intellectually. I’m on a quest to challenge myself continuously and, through that, to improve continuously. With that in mind, I set out to hike the Otter and Tsitsikamma trails back-to-back in April. It was an incredible experience, with breathtaking views, extreme weather, wonderful people, and memories to last a lifetime.”

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