Marathon, a running distance equivalent to 42.2 kilometers or 26.2 miles, is considered to be one of the toughest feats of human endurance. This is the reason that only 1% of the running community around the world ever completes this challenging distance. Historically, 42.2 KM was a distance run by a person carrying the king’s message across two cities of Greece, one named Marathon. It remains a dream come true for athletes to cross that marathon finish line because it’s a journey of painful training, sweat, blood, tears, compromises, and injuries and gives many lessons for the individual life who experience it.
In Pakistan and especially in Karachi, running as a sport is becoming ever popular. Groups like Wednesday Night Pacers, Seaview Running Club, Karachi Striders, and Born2Run are slowly gaining strength and educating the masses regarding the science behind this sport. Also, round the year, many events sponsored by Sports in Pakistan are allowing the community to get the feel of international events in our own backyard. Still running is in its initial days here and we’re still scratching the surface for something that can go massive. Along with opportunities for this sport, challenges are also real. Availability of gears, accessories, and nutrition still remains a complex and costly process as individuals have to import it from the US or UK on their own.
It’s true that running a marathon is a lifetime experience for any runner, it’s a very daunting challenge considering the hot and humid weather Karachi has for 11 months a year. The training under these conditions does have a major impact on the body but in 2021 many of us belonging to the WNP running community embraced this challenge and enrolled for a virtual London Marathon that was held on Oct 3. Although many of us have been running and cycling for the past many years, training for a marathon was like climbing Mount Everest for us. In the past, WNP has organized its maiden marathon on 17 January 2021 so did SVRC on 5 Feb same year for select elite runners to get a feel for and help upcoming runners.
Our training started 6 months back in April 2021 with a plan to lose weight and improve heart rate as it plays a major role in long-distance running. We gradually started to improve our mileage and speed. Indeed, injuries and heatwaves during the season did give us tough times but determination and the vision to see ourselves crossing that finish line, that too of a London Marathon was the fuel, burning inside us. As the time got closer to Oct 3, so did the mileage increase and we were putting 40+ KM of running each and every week.
With a lot of anxiety, uncertainty, and passion our marathon run on Oct 3 started off at 4:30 am early morning. It felt like the temperature at the time was crossing 30c and soon we started to soak in sweat. For the first many kilometers, we ran in the streets of Mohammad Ali society and as the sun was breaking the dark, we were on Shahrah-e-Faisal running towards Malir Cantt. Although we carried some energy gels and sweets in our pockets, hydration was provided by cars, stationed every 5 kilometers throughout the route. All went well till the halfway mark and when the sun took things in command, our bodies started to dehydrate quickly and many of us started getting blisters and cramps which slowed our speed but not the determination. We ran to McDonald’s, Malir Cantt, and took a u-turn on our way back to Lal Qila, Shahr-e-Faisal. By the 3.5 hour mark, temperatures were crossing 35c and with 15+ kilometers to go, the journey became even harder. There were happy moments and sad moments throughout the run but then there were moments when the brain started to suggest that death is near if we run further but the willpower kept us going and after 4 hours, some of the elites started to complete their runs. For some it was 5+ hours to finish the line, for others it was even 7+ hours. At the end of the finish line there were tears and emotional moments as the brutal journey we went through finally paid off. It was a sense of accomplishment and making the impossible a possible one. Words are not enough to describe the moments we had on Oct 3.
Continuing the journey, WNP planned another marathon on Jan 23, WNP Winter Fest. With one marathon under the belt and weather conditions much more suitable we started off on a cold Sunday morning at 5:30 am from McDonald’s, Seaview and it was time for us to break some personal records and we did exactly that. We also welcomed many new marathoners this time around. And yes, we again had our emotional moments crossing that 42.2 km finish line this time too as it’s the journey that we have been through and the pain it takes to be there means a lot.
In the end, like anything else in this world, the positive and like-minded people you surround yourself with play a major role in what you achieve. In our case family support is an essential part of this and the support, encouragement, coaching, tips, and to-do mindset we get from our brothers at Wednesday Night Pacers is something that keeps us moving forward. With many local and international representations, WNP remains the group with the highest number of Marathoners in Pakistan. Our journey continues and it’s time to make an impact on the global map and represent Pakistan.
Author: Muhammad Jawwad Paracha
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