Jalal Bin Thaneya
Master of Endurance
Jalal Bin Thaneya realised that people with special needs were suffering from so much more than their disability: the lack of awareness, compassion and understanding was affecting them too.
Jalal wanted to stamp out the many prejudices people with special needs face every day, so he set out to raise awareness the best way he knew: by pushing himself to the absolute limit.
Jalal vowed to complete some of the most demanding personal challenges in the world, so the world would listen to his plea.
Discover his Toughie story below.
Supporting Autism one step at a time
Jalal’s epic journey began in 2006. Despite not personally knowing anyone with special needs, he knew that people in the region were often uncomfortable talking about mental and physical disabilities.
Jalal decided to change all of that with his first challenge. He walked across all seven of the Emirates in the United Arab Emirates to raise awareness for the Dubai Autism Centre. Every journey begins with a single step, and Jalal pushed himself to take many more – 90,000 in fact, over 18 days.
“Before I walked across the seven Emirates, there wasn’t a lot of awareness surrounding special needs. By the time I’d returned home, I’d inspired others to start their own activities”
An epic journey of self-discovery
Jalal didn’t stop there. He wanted to take his message further – and higher. So for his next epic challenge in 2008, he focused on climbing stairs in the famous skyscrapers of Dubai, to raise money for the Rashid Paediatric Centre; which provides education and therapy for children with special needs.
It was no easy task, but Jalal pushed himself to climb over 100 towers, achieving his vertical marathon goals. Most people would stop there, but Jalal set out to walk across the Empty Quarter from the UAE to Saudi – one of the hottest, harshest environments in the world that few people have ever survived.
Jalal’s ability to finish what he started was attracting a lot of attention from fans and charities alike, so Jalal was experiencing more exposure and more donations as a result.
Challenges beyond the physical
By now, the world was watching, and listening to Jalal’s message. He was invited to participate in the London Marathon as a torchbearer. From epic bike rides across the UAE to walking through dark nights alone, Jalal broke through the barriers of every challenge’s physical limit.
For Jalal, the hardest issues he faced weren’t on the journey itself. He found he could push through the pain and overcome the physical hardships he experienced, but people’s perceptions still sometimes got in the way.
“It is not the journey in itself that has created any problems for me because you can fix a flat tyre on a bicycle or if you get hurt, you can put some ice on it, take painkillers and continue.”
A 2000 kilometer walk for life
In 2012, he took on his biggest challenge yet. He walked 2000 gruelling kilometres from Abu Dhabi to Makkah in Saudi Arabia. Sometimes, there was a lack of food and nowhere to sleep but a car, but with his goal in mind of helping people with special needs, Jalal carried on. Every time he sets himself a new goal, Jalal feels stronger and more resilient. No matter what life throws at him, he is always prepared and positive – whatever the outcome.
“Since starting my journey, I have a greater appreciation for life and what I have now”
Jalal’s only competition? Himself
With every challenge Jalal sets himself, he hopes to only raise funds for charities close to his heart, while he beats his own records in the process. Jalal is evidence of the fact that sometimes the small things we push ourselves to do can be transformed into huge life-changing events that transform people’s lives for the better.
“I hope that my actions may inspire others to do the same, or at least become more interested in physical activity…life itself is a practice”