My AAWA Half Marathon Experience

By Irum Khaliq-Naqvi

When I first received news that the Richmond Half Marathon had been cancelled, or at least postponed, my heart skipped with joy!  Not overlooking a time of national mourning for the monarch, I cannot lie, I was utterly grateful.
 
Let me take you back 3 months. Whilst on a harmless summers afternoon run with the ladies from the SJ community, feeling rather good about myself and in a moment of total ignorance, I decided to take part in this year’s Half Marathon. Oh boy. What subsequently followed from that heat of the moment decision, was my lapping up several pies…. the humble kind!
 
Alhumdollila, I had the most encouraging trainer, instilling self-belief in me with every step. The sweetest and most supportive teammates anyone could ask for. Some were veterans, others wanting to improve on last year’s performance, and even a young lady wanting to ‘give back’ in celebration of her 21st birthday. Mashallah.
 
And then there was me.  Now I had been running for years…but only in my head! I soon realised there was a big difference. Deciding to run a Half Marathon with less than 3 months training, was not one of my wisest moments. But I persevered. Through the embarrassment of always being last, chundering at the end of training. Even having to quit running 3 weeks prior to the big day, due to an infected knee…. oh yes, how can I forget to mention falling and hurting my knee and elbow, 200m into a 10k run…but with the help of Allah (swt), I persevered.  
 
Now let’s fast forward 3 months. The joy was short lived. Within a few hours of the news of postponement, SJ advised they will endeavour to go ahead with a Half Marathon on the Sunday, if everything could come together in time. I soon realised, simply put, that meant the Half Marathon was happening!  
 
Admitting this for the first time out loud, I quickly scrambled my brain for an excuse, because I had already given myself permission to relax, only to give in within a few seconds with another “OH BOY”!  
 
Throughout all the many other moments of wanting to quit, that I haven’t already mentioned, I kept deciding to keep going.  It wasn’t enough that I needed to get myself out there after months of being at home. Or to be a great role model to our sons, that you CAN do anything, if you set your mind to it. Or even to honour my husband’s unwavering belief in me, from the first day we met.  
 
It was so I could look at myself in the mirror and say I have humbly tried to show my gratitude to Allah (swt) for the health, ability, and opportunity, He has given me. The opportunity to contribute to help quench the thirst of innocent men, women, and children. The opportunity of deep reflection on the thirst of Imam Hussain (as), his family and companions. Their suffering and martyrdom in the shadow of a 3-day thirst, that went on to engrave into the memory of Humanity, the basic Human Rights of every living soul. Their rights to Justice, Freedom, Dignity and most of all, life sustaining…WATER.  
 
On the big day, thanks to my trainer, I was given a 45 minute head start and even had a running buddy meet me halfway through, just to keep me going till the end. Even so, after mile 11, I hit the infamous ‘Runners Wall’.  
At this point, I wish it was just fatigue that had overcome me, but it was also pain. In places I’d never felt before. My mind screamed “I can’t take another step”.  During those gruelling moments, I remembered when the Prophet (pbuh) gave his beloved daughter Fatima (as) the Tasbeeh, in exchange for her request for a maidservant, as she would become fatigued from her duties. I duly recited Subhanallah, Alhumdolila, Allah o Akhbar with every breath. I basically used every spiritual, emotional, and mental trick in the book.
 
I remembered that the mind gives up when the body is at only 40% of its capacity. I remembered that I only have to take one more step and Allah (swt) will help me with the next. I remembered the hardships the Ahlulbayt went through, so I would have knowledge of my rights today. I remembered the innocent children who must walk miles daily, just so they can source water that won’t make them sick, or even worse, result in death.  
 
The outcome: I DID it. Against all the odds, Allah (swt) answered my prayers, “Please help me complete this, no matter what”.
 
You know when they say, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”.  Never was a truer word spoken.  When reaching the finishing point, I almost threw up in some bushes. I was too dizzy to stand for the medal ceremony. Almost fainted when my teammates insisted I join them for a group photo, and finally limped to the car, leaning on my beloved husband.  
 
But…I DID it.  The moral of my story:
 
“We do our best…and Allah (swt) takes care of the rest”.

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