A marathon of inconvenience

Lahore: As marathon returned to the Lahore city after a gap of six years, 58-year-old Muhammad Munir Kamboh Chishti, a diehard runner, was so excited to run, he arrived at the registration booth at Gaddafi Stadium at 11am on Saturday only to find he was the second one to get the running bib. Soon, other participants started arriving at the venue, including children and women, and they proudly decorated their chest with marathon bibs. By 1pm, the venue was swarming with scores of people, some wearing designers’ sports wears.

Those on the registration booths never kept the headcount; they would ask a participant to show their identity card to ascertain their age and issued the registration bib. The registration was under three categories – women (of all ages), men (16 years to 60 years), and senior citizens (60 plus).

The city district government of Lahore with a private sponsor arranged the 10 kilometers mixed marathon to celebrate the Pakistan Day on March 23 this year.

According to the plan advertised on social media, registration was to be done from 11am to 1pm followed by the race.

It was 1:30pm, and there was no one to blow the whistle to start the race. A few organisers present at the scene were busy giving protocol to the mid-management officers of the city district government of Lahore. When asked about the schedule, they showed ignorance. When asked about the route, again they showed ignorance. Ask them anything about the race, such as where is the starting point, they were clueless.

The electronic media was going crazy about interviewing the female participants.

Among the participants was fitness expert Abid Amin, 54. He runs his own fitness club in DHA, Lahore. He said he was happy to participate in the marathon. “When a crowd runs in a marathon, it gives a clear message to society that it’s time to take care of the quality of life,” he said.

According to him, a marathon is such as an activity where there is no loser.

“No matter you reach the finishing line first and last, in either case, you’re a winner.”

But 18-year-old Irfan Watto was only running to hit the finishing line first and clinch the first prize. The first prize was Rs100,000.

“I’ve traveled from Sibi, Balochistan, to participate in the event,” he smiled.  Irfan Watto is a kabbadi player. He loves to run but hates cricket because “it does not involve active movements.”

He said for this day, he did not prepare much.

“It’s just a normal day for me. I got up at 5am, did routine workout and later took breakfast of one roti and a glass of lassi. Yes, I’ve oiled my legs, for they will not get stiffed during the race,” he reasoned.

His younger brother, Ihsan Watto, 17, was also running the marathon. Ihsan is also a kabbadi player. “I’m here not to beat my elder brother. I’ll follow him to the finishing line,” he vowed.

It was 2pm, and Munir Chishti, who came to the stadium at 11am, like so many others, was feeling exhausted now.

“I’m not afraid of running 10 or 100 kilomteres, but the three hours of inactivity have drained my energy and excitement,” he complained.

He was right, as there were no seating arrangements at the venue. The sponsor of the race, the manufacturer of junk food, kept distributing their items to the participants. No bin was placed around the stadium to bin wrappers and empty water bottles.

Malik Khalid Ikram, 68, was the only senior citizen runner in the race. The retired banker has been a good tennis player since his youth. He said he was trying to be cool since sportspeople needed to be cool and defy anger. By him stood, Gohar Yousuf, housewife. She came from Mughalpura, Lahore, with her two teenage sons to participate in the race. “I’ve been a good runner in my college; today I can feel the feel of those college days,” said the mom of two. She said she had running a marathon after good 25 years.

Her sister Farhat Shaheen, also a housewife, was equally excited to give their feet a challenging task.

At 2:50pm, someone said the race was going to begin from the main entrance of the Qadhafi Stadium by the Liberty Roundabout.

By the time a majority of the people reached the gate, it seemed someone had blown the whistle and the race was in progress.

The race began sometimes between 2:50pm and 3pm.

The Sibi boys lost the race for they began the race at 3pm.

The race was ongoing while the vehicular traffic was also competing with marathon runners on the road. To avoid injuries, runners had to take the service road from Liberty Roundabout to Hafeez Centre on Gulberg Main Boulevard.

One of the participants, Irfanul Haque, complained of hot day.

“I’m a marathon runner, thought not a professional one, but I can’t miss a marathon,” he said while running on the Gulberg Boulevard.

“All over the world, marathons are held in the morning. In the UAE, they begin as early as 5am. In Malaysia, no later than 7am. Last year, the Karachi commissioner race began at 9am. But Lahore set a unique example by holding a marathon at 3pm,” he gasped to complete the sentence.

According to the official announcement, Nowsherwan Ashiq hit the finishing point first, followed by Muhammad Afzal and Subhan Ashiq, while Rabia Ashiq and Farha clinched the first two positions. According to Lahore Deputy Commissioner Saleha Saeed, up to 2,000 people were the part of the race.

She said the weather was pleasant, so no one should complain about the timing.

She said a flurry of activities had been planned for the Pakistan Day in the city, so minor problems should be avoided.

Lessons learned from the Lahore Marathon

There are lessons for the management and the runners for the holding of a successful marathon.

For the management
  • Arrange registration of the participants a day before the race.
  • Every participant should be given a clear schedule and the map of the route at the time of registration.
  • Morning time is the best time for marathons, given the harsh weather of our part of the world, and our public’s tendency to hit the roads in the evenings.
  • Marathons are a fun-filled activity for the runners; there is no pleasure in enjoying protocol on these events.
  • Hold marathons as many as possible from October to April. They create healthy communities.
For marathon participants
  • If you are taking part in a marathon for the first time, don’t try to reach the finish line in one go. Run for 20-30 minutes and from here start a jogging regime for yourself.
  • Before coming to a marathon, make sure you have been a regular runner for the last couple of months.
  • Don’t do anything unusual on marathon day.
  • Don’t try news pair of jogging shoes on a marathon.
  • As Abid Amin says there are no loser or winner in a marathon. Just join a marathon and celebrate your strength.
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