Rawalpindi arranges the first-ever marathon for the blind
“I’m Faryad Gujjar, chairperson of Lyallpur Athletics Club and I’ve with me blind athletes. They’re here in Rawalpindi to run in the world’s first-ever blind marathon,” Gujjar tells The News on Sunday (TNS).
Blind people run in marathons across the world but January 10 marks the first time that a marathon is being held exclusively for the blind. The main 16-km marathon from T Chowk to Liaqat Bagh Sports Complex on Rawalpindi is grabbing attention of the public.
By Thursday,over 600 people had registered, more than 50 of whom were blind participants.
Faizan Khattak, a blind athlete has arrived from Nowshera. Taxila-based Muhammad Usman is a blind student and also a participant. Both are looking forward to the race. Tanveer Ahmed, a blind runner from Islamabad, says that it is a very positive decision to have a marathon at this stressful time.
“Our arrangements are perfect for the blind people. All runners have their NADRA identity cards. In the past, I have coached blind players for different games. But they are taking part in a marathon for the first time,” Muhammad Ejaz, the marathon coach,tells TNS.
Ejaz’s family is known as “Parinda (Bird) Family” back in Chakwal because his father Abdul Khaliq was given the title the Flying Bird of Asia. Khaliq was an elite runner and had won over 100 gold medals among others at various national and international races. He was the first athlete to receive the Pride of Performance Award from President Ayub Khan.
Ejaz explains that arranging the marathon involved a lot of challenges and also responsibility in ensuring proper care and guidancewas provided to the blind athletes. He recounts that Capt AnwarulHaq (retired), the deputy commissioner, had asked him if he was up to the job.
“I replied ‘yes’. And he said, then do it. And you can see, we have been successful so far,” he says.
Capt Haq tells TNS that the idea behind holding this marathon is to give the people of Rawalpindi an avenue for amusement during the pandemic.
Asked about the SOPs, he says that, “If the city administration is arranging an event, rest assured that it is taking care of the SOPs. A safe distance between runners is being maintained and we have complete arrangements for sanitation and checking temperatures. The ‘real’ threat are the gatherings that are held without engaging city administration and where the SOPs are ignored.”
About 1,000 people are expected to take part in the main marathon starting from T-Chowk to Liaquat Bagh Sports Complex. Abbas Gilani, a Fulbright scholar, tells TNS that he is taking part in the marathon because it is a healthy activity.
“We should follow the SOPs but we must run back to normalcy,” he says.
Some Rawalpindi-based university students are of the opinion that running in a marathon is way more thrilling than racing bikes in full public view. They agree that in addition to being a threat to life, bike races are an unhealthy activity and cause pollution too. Rawalpindi is known for bike races on its roads.
A good addition to marathon of the blind is Walid Aziz, principal of the Government Boys School and the first blind male archer of Pakistan. He is a gold medalist.
“When our coach, Ejaz shared the idea of arranging a six-kilometre marathon for the blind, my other blind friends and I discussed it at length in Rawalpindi. We’re excited to be part of this event that will make a world record — as such an event has never happened before.”
He says that they are also excited because attractive prizes are out for them in this race.
District Sports Officer Toheed Abbasi has a lot on his to-do list. He is coordinating with district administration teams to turn the traffic to alternative ways. The main flow of traffic from GT Road is being diverted to Islamabad Expressway but still there are about 19 points that open out onto the marathon area. These will also need to be closed.
The writer studies and teaches media. He can be reached on Twitter at @furraat