Mohamed Banoun runs the Flying Pig for his homeland

CINCINNATI -- Mohamed Banoun has crossed the finish line of a marathon 65 times. That’s 1,702 marathon miles and thousands more in training, and the 64-year old -- known to his friends as Mo -- has no plans to stop.

Mo’s running journey is made for this space. He is a Flying Pig Squadron member -- a runner who has completed 10 or more Flying Pig marathons. I have never seen him without a smile, and his positive attitude is infectious. To run with Mo is no joke. He's strong and never makes excuses, which is why he was a perfect pace group leader when I meet him two years ago during Flying Pig training.

His fastest marathon was, "a long time ago," the computer specialist joked this week. He ran a 3-hour and 15- minute Columbus marathon during his first time out in 1983.

"The biggest investment I’ve made over the years is to my health," He said. "Not that you have to run marathons to be healthy, but it I love it."

Banoun’s marathon career has netted him an impressive collection of medals, and he’s earned them all running for a cause.

Although health might be a benefit of his commitment to exercise, he has always run for a cause.

In the late 1980s he found out about Team in Training, which helps runners train for events while they fundraise for cancer research. For Banoun, whose grandmother had died of breast cancer, this was as good a reason as any to get on his feet. Banoun ran several marathons, raising money and dedicating his efforts to helping fight cancer.

Since then, Banoun has also run to raise awareness about human rights issues in his homeland of Libya.

Born in Tripoli, Banoun came to the United States in the early 1970s to get a college education, studying computer science at the behest of the Libyan government led by Maummar Gaddafi.

"I scored high in mathematics," Banoun said, but he had never seen a computer before. He started his college career at the University of Dayton before transferring to Ohio University.

It was during that time he learned how deadly Gaddafi's regime could be.

"My uncle was killed (for criticizing the government)," Banoun solemnly recalled. "He died under torture."

A short time after his uncle’s death, his family sent word that it was too dangerous to ever go back to Libya, and Banoun would have to endure months at a time with no contact from the people he loved.

"The phones were bugged," Banoun said. "But most of the time a call wouldn't get through."

So like a marathon, Banoun continued to move forward. He met his wife while attending Ohio University, and they settled in Cincinnati.

The father of three became a United States citizen in the 1980s. Now, he's an IT specialist for Great American Insurance.

Banoun found running in the early 1980s, training for the Columbus Marathon.

"I chickened out," he laughed. "But I went -- and decided the next year I’d be ready."

Since that time he has averaged two full marathons a year.

In 2011, he found a new cause dear to his heart. Once again, it concerned his home: A civil war had started in Libya, and he saw reports of many human rights violations against civilians.

He dedicated each mile of the Flying Pig and the Columbus Marathon to journalists killed during the uprising. This Facebook post explains it.

Banoun also demonstrated with students at the University of Cincinnati for human rights in Libya. He traveled to New York and Washington, D.C., to voice his concern.

"My allegiance is to the United States," Banoun told me. "But I still love where I am from."

Banoun now has new goals and causes. He has joined a triathlon club in Blue Ash at the YMCA. He completed his first Ironman 70.3 with hopes of completing a full Ironman at the end of summer in Louisville.

Runners from 50 states and 17 countries participated in the Flying Pig in 2016. Banoun ran in the first one and has since considered it his hometown marathon, but it also gives him a chance to remember where he came from.

 

What is your running story? Are you training for the Flying Pig? 5k, 10k, Half or full marathon? This space is for you. Each week we will feature the people that make up the Flying Pig.

Contact Chris Riva on Twitter, @RivaWCPO, on Facebook or via email, chris.riva@wcpo.com, and tell your story.

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