Interviewed by: Kevin Brandon (02/02/17)
Hi Nabil, welcome. Could you introduce yourself to the group? How did you come to live in Philadelphia and run with PRTC?
I spent most of my childhood in Connecticut before moving to DC for college. Before moving to Philly, I had mostly lived in DC besides a year in London and a year in Gabon. I moved here because my partner Sarah was starting a Ph.D. program at Penn. I ran alone most of my first year before realizing I would probably have more fun if I met some other runners. I also wanted to train a bit more seriously, so when I came across the PRTC website, I got in touch. I’m glad I did!
When did you first become a runner? Did a specific event compel you to take on the sport?
I hated running in high school, sticking mostly to the basketball and tennis courts. When I got to college, I quickly gained a bunch of weight since I wasn’t exercising nearly as much as I did in high school or eating that well. I started running a few miles a couple times a week with a friend, but never ran any races or took training that seriously until later. My parents have been trying to run marathons in all 50 states, so the summer before my senior year, I decided to sign up for my first one.
Can you take us through your day one of your running career to today?
The first few years of college, I’d run maybe once or twice a week. I was hooked after finishing my first marathon, and have tried to get together with my parents as often as I can to race together. I’ve done 20 marathons to date, but I’ve got a ways to go to catch up to my dad who has run 41 despite starting in 2008.
What do you see as your favorite running accomplishment? How about a not-so-great moment?
My favorite has to be breaking 3:00 at the Chicago Marathon in 2015. I had felt great training for that race, got lucky with perfect weather on race day, and had a strong finish. The not-so-fun moment that comes to mind first was suffering through the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler one year. I’m lactose intolerant, and I’m not sure why I decided the night before the race was a good opportunity to try drinking a giant Oreo milkshake.
Regarding your running future, what are your short and long-term goals?
Short-term, I want to be consistent and run some higher mileage to put in a good showing at Boston in April. I’d like to improve upon my current PR and get under 2:55. Long-term, I think I’d like to try racing some shorter distances. Really long-term, I’d love to finish the marathon-in-every-state quest with my parents.
You currently work for one of Philly’s largest and best-known employers, Comcast. How did you end up in the tech field and what is a typical day like at Comcast?
I ended up in tech after we moved to Philly. I had previously worked mostly in public policy and economic research, but did some programming at my last job and have always been interested in business. When Sarah and I realized we were moving to Philly, I figured there would be many more opportunities in tech than in international development here. Despite Comcast not having a great reputation among many customers, it’s a great place to work. I spend most of my day building applications our customers use to manage their accounts, and I’ve also worked on some projects with our voice remote. As a developer, it can be pretty fun to work on applications that millions of people use every day.
Prior to Philly, you spent time in Gabon and Washington DC. How did you end up in those places and what kind of takeaways do you have from that time in your life?
I went to college in DC and stayed afterward to work at a start-up my friends founded. Before coming to Philly, I lived there for a couple of years while I worked at the Center for Global Development. I loved living there and miss some aspects of life there. I learned a lot about public policy and met most of my closest friends while I lived there. The running routes are top-notch. Running past the monuments at dawn never gets old. Luckily, my family and most of my extended family still live in the DC area.
I spent a year in Gabon as part of a fellowship I was doing. I worked for a large agribusiness on their social and environmental policy. I’d love to work in international development again, although it was tough to be far away from family for that long. One of my favorite things about running in Gabon was that whenever you would cross paths with another runner, you both would make eye contact and quickly clap your hands twice to encourage the other person.
In doing some research, I stumbled upon your website. Very cool! What inspired you to host a website and how do you find it helps you?
I mostly maintain a website for my own benefit to track books I’ve read or write summaries of technical things I’ve learned so that I don’t forget them later. I know my readers are mostly a couple of friends of mine and my mom, but I still like working on it. I also use it as a low-stakes playground for trying out new programming tools I want to use.
Although we’ve never met, I know you and (Sarah/Fiancee!) have a pet. What is it and can you give some background on how you came to adopt it?
We have a sassy, somewhat anxious three-legged dog named Miss Jack. Sarah found her while working in Sierra Leone. Here’s a photo of her as a puppy.
The landlord didn’t allow Miss Jack to come inside, so she lived outside until her shoulder and leg were broken at 4 months old. Sarah snuck her inside after that and was able to bring her back to the US when she returned. Although she lived a much luckier life than most other dogs in Sierra Leone, her leg never healed properly and had to amputated a few years ago. She gets along pretty well on three legs though and has become a mini-celebrity in our neighborhood since she makes me carry her home on walks.
Aside from running, do you have any hobbies or hidden talents our group may not know of?
My mom introduces me to new people by making me wiggle my ears, and I think that might be where my talents end. As for hobbies, I spend most of my free time cooking and talking about Miss Jack.