At Tifosi Optics, we are honored to have a vast array of athletes that represent our brand. That is why we’ve decided to spend some time highlighting our ambassadors and specifically those who are a warrior in their community and sport.
For our first official Tifosi Warrior Highlight, we had a chance to speak with Yasir Salem. Salem is a triathlete, marathon runner, cyclist, and this may surprise you, a competitive eater. (Who happens to be ranked number 11 in Major League’s Eating’s list of competitive eaters!) He hosts several talents but what stands out most about Salem is his backstory of why he does what he does.
Distance running had been an important part of life for Salem and his late wife Gweneviere since 2008. After Gwen recovered from a meningioma brain tumor and short-term memory loss from its removal, they began running marathons together as part of her therapy. For the next few years, they completed a total of 8 marathons together.
When I asked Salem what his favorite moment of his career was, he simply said, “Running my first NYC marathon with Gweneviere in 2010.”
Yasir says, “Gwen harnessed her challenges following brain surgery to also inspire her music and had recorded an album (I released her album for her). She didn’t stop there. She then graduated with honors from NYU with a degree in creative writing, attended Juilliard for music theory, and was accepted into Columbia’s MFA program (she was due to start in the Fall, 2018 semester). 10 years after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, a rare form of lung cancer took her life on July 22, 2018 at the age of 47.”
After losing Gwen to cancer, Salem put together a foundation in her name: gwenmann.org and went about trying to solve the problem of survival through early detection.
“Last year  I ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 weeks, wrote a chapter in Dean Karnazes’ ‘Running for Good’ book, and ran with him on my 50th marathon,” said Salem.
And when you ask who he idolizes, his wife Gwen is the first name on the list, “Gwen, Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, Rich Roll, Tim Ferriss, and Joe Rogan.”
To this day, Salem uses his wife for motivation when he must push through tough times, “Whenever I feel sad about missing Gwen, I go for a long, hard sweaty run. I’ve learned that running is very effective therapy for me to lift my mood. It’s like I sweat out the funky feelings and I’m left with serenity.”
With Gwen’s help, Salem also found his love for competitive eating.
“Every year around the end of November, Gwen and I would put together our big goals and plans for the coming year. Gwen’s recovery and accomplishments after her brain tumor really inspired me to think big and accomplish both serious and silly goals. One serious goal I had was to do a triathlon, even though I didn’t know how to swim yet.” Salem goes on to say, “One of my silly and fun goals was to get into competitive eating and be on ESPN on July 4th eating hot dogs. Once I accomplished that, I searched for ways for me to combine competitive eating and my love of cycling and running – to dominate the Tour de Donut circuit.”
Salem has had several successes throughout his career so how does he stay on track?
“Accountability through Google calendar and fitness apps for food logging, fitness tracking, and a daily checklist of what I want to accomplish every day.” Salem says, “I automate everything I can and don’t spend time doing repetitive things that I don’t want to waste my life doing: grocery shopping delivered, a robot vacuums my place daily, an automatic feeder feeds my fish, etc.”
And as for advice he’d like to give to similar athletes?
“If you are into endurance running and want to get faster, look at Maximum Aerobic Function training and see if it works for you. Set your race schedule and goals for the coming year in November and calendarize your training,” Salem said.
Even the current COVID-19 pandemic isn’t slowing Salem down. This year, all of his races may have been cancelled, but he’s already planning ahead and says he is focused on getting faster for next year’s races.
“I also plan to run Boston, NYC, London and Chicago virtually in 2020, to raise funds for the Gwen Mann Foundation and award at least one more grant for the year to researchers and doctors working on new early detection technology for lung cancer,” says Salem.
Salem’s story of success is not one that comes without heartache. His determination to live for his late wife Gwen and to help others who are battling similar illnesses speaks volumes about what we can do when we are faced with hard times. Thank you to Yasir Salem for taking the time to speak with Tifosi Optics and for continuing to be a Warrior among us!
To learn more about what all Yasir Salem is currently working on, you can visit his website. Also, please be sure to visit the Gweneviere Mann Foundation official website to learn more about the foundation’s mission or to donate to the cause.