LLHM – THE RUNNERS’ JOURNEYS

 

AFIFA ALIHASSAN

“This summer, I ran a half-marathon”: a sentence I never thought I’d say in my lifetime. I know that I wouldn’t have signed up to a challenge like this for the first time without the idea that I’m doing it for something bigger. But even on its own, the half marathon is an unforgettable experience- pushing yourself to grow beyond your perceived limits is an incredible gift to experience.

Training was tough, especially being consistent throughout the months, with another significant life event occurring a month before the run (hint: it involves the words qabiltu). I lost about 2 weeks of training during that time, but I made up for it by going on long hikes on my honeymoon, and even did a 13km run one morning! Teenage me who hated running wouldn’t have believed it!

Being part of a group of ladies motivating each other along with the SJ ladies running coordinators giving us advice and encouragement was one of the highlights of this experience. I am so grateful and felt so proud walking up to the start line with these amazing women.

The run was, to me, a spiritual experience. Being one of so many who cared so deeply, who were running in memory of loved ones, for causes that cared about, to push themselves beyond their limits, was truly inspiring. Strangers smiled and called out my name in encouragement, and it felt like we were all more than the sum of our parts. My legs started hurting with more than half the run to go, and it was their cheers that kept me going. But despite the physical and mental difficulty, the half-marathon was so much fun and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone thinking of doing it. The feeling of crossing that finish line is unparalleled. Thank you to Who Is Hussain and SJ ladies for giving me the opportunity to say that starting sentence: “This summer, I ran a half-marathon!”

 

KARISHMA DAMANI 

“Very reluctantly, I started going for jogs with my husband during summer of 2020. With regular gyms being closed, I had to find a way of staying active. Very quickly I understood why I have avoided running for so long – it is tough!

In March 2021, SJ ladies set up a team challenge which motivated me to train harder and set myself distance and time goals. When the opportunity to apply for the half marathon came up, it took me many days to make my mind up. In a moment of courage, I applied, fully expecting not to get a place.

When I found out I had been selected, I had decided to send an apology email and bail out. Looking at the good work the charity does, and this specific Who is Hussain campaign, I could not let them down, and felt honoured to be given this opportunity. 10 weeks before the event, I began training in earnest, learning so much on the journey. With support from family and friends, I started to enjoy training and looked forward to the event. I could see how much I had improved in a matter of months.

When the day arrived, I was filled with excitement and nerves. I hit many mental blocks during the run, Alhamdulillah, the atmosphere and energy around kept me going. When the run was complete, I was elated and felt so thankful for the opportunity. I want to thank the SJ ladies co-ordinators for their immense support, my family and friends for encouragement and Who is Hussain for the opportunity. If you are someone who says: “I can’t run” or “I don’t do running” – this was me a year ago, give it a go, you may get hooked!

 

FATIMA CHAGPAR 

“When I got chosen to run the LLHM back in May, my first thoughts were “there is absolutely no way I can do this! I was just about able to get through a 10k, how was I going to accomplish 21k? However with the support and training from the SJ running coordinators, I was confidently standing at the start line.

Although I had difficulty sleeping the couple of nights prior to race day, I didn’t allow myself to think what will happen beyond the start line. I was determined to stay in the moment and go with the flow. I followed the diet and hydration guide as closely as possible and felt confident it would see me through. Race day started with positive energy and I was looking forward to get going. It did not disappoint! I enjoyed every step until the finish line.

From taking in the landmarks to soaking up the encouragement from the sidelines. Best experience ever!!!”

 

SHAFANA MURAJ

“All praise is to Allah swt for giving me this opportunity to witness and experience so much love, compassion, unity and triumph in my life – the likes of which I have never felt or experienced before.

From the start of my Journey to 21 km, I followed one rule – to do my ultimate best and give it my all and perhaps this is why this experience has been so close to my heart since day 1. I have been committed to my training and fundraising and somehow things just fell into place. I penned my experiences and feelings so that I could remain true and take responsibility for my actions. I have gone through some of the lowest of lows and highest of highs in the last 2 months and touched and unravelled my most sensitive and raw emotions. The pain has been real and the struggle extremely hard and yet somehow days turned into weeks and weeks into months until the final day, Sunday 1st August 2021.

I was in awe to see so many people take part in the half marathon. Each supporting their own charity. A reason, a purpose or just in memory of a beloved. We were all there to silently voice what we hold close to our hearts. To endure physical and mental challenges and push ourselves more than what we feel we are capable of. 

The beauty of it all was we were all in this together. Everyone smiled at each other, gave thumps up, encouraged and motivated one another. Strangers, people I have never met in my life kept me moving. Told me, “we are nearly there”, asked me if I was ok. We were there in all shapes, sizes and capabilities. Even those who were less able or elderly were running. It was like an unseen force that knew 1 direction –  head to the finish line.

When I started running it was a mental struggle at first. The different terrain and a different environment made me nervous. I kept seeing everyone run past me but I tried to tell myself to keep it steady. There was a point when even the last wave had gone past me and it was getting apparent that my pace was slow and as the miles would increase I would slow down even further. My legs felt heavy but I let my mind dissolve around my surroundings. There were cheering stations for each charity that kept everyone motivated and I just tried to enjoy the moment and go with the flow. I felt myself starting to struggle once I hit the 8 mile. Up until that point I had managed to run continuously which I am really proud of because 2 months ago even doing that was impossible.

By the time I reached mile 10, I was seriously tired. The streets were starting to get empty and the feeling that I was amongst the last ones was not a good one. I kept going.

Mile 11, I hit a brick wall. I could no longer feel my legs anymore. Running wasn’t an option. I could barely walk. I felt the tears starting to flow and a heavy sense of not making it washed over me. I stopped for a brief moment at a water station and took a few minutes to calm down and take deep breathes. In my mind I could hear everyone’s voices screaming and shouting my name, telling me I got this. I started walking slowly again from this point. Each distance marker seemed to stretch a thousand miles but somehow I separated my mind from my body. I refused to think or feel the pain I was feeling. My only wish now was to see the finish line.

At Mile 13, Finally!!! I saw Tarannam waiting for me. I cannot express the relief and happiness I felt at that time. It was as if I had released a flood gate of emotions as she told me to run. And run I did. I cried all the way to the finish line. It was done. I had done it. We had done it!!

To say that this is my personal achievement is a lie. My Journey is a testament of the unity and strength that a community brings. Every single person I know and some I don’t even know –  have somehow contributed and played a part. You did not need to run the half marathon physically because I promise you all that you were there with me in spirit. Every step and every mile.

The fundraising has taken a life of its own. The numbers I see are unbelievable. To achieve this after the pandemic is yet again proof that when we put our hearts and minds and soul into something – perhaps even the Sky isn’t the Limit. We go beyond that.”

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