A marathon is more than just another race. For history buffs, the name “marathon” supposedly comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier who, according to legend, was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated in the Battle of Marathon. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping, but moments after proclaiming his message to the city, he collapsed dead tired.
But more importantly, those who train and then run in a marathon develop a mindset that truly distinguishes them from others: its about patience, discipline, strength, and stamina. Marathon runners develop a laser sharp focus, and by training for a single long distance (42.2 kms) race, they develop an apreciation for long hard struggles that one often faces.
No, I am not a marathon runner, but I seriously admire those who participate in this endurance sport. My partner in business does run the Boston marathon, and I admire his discipline in training. He trains rigorously and steadfastly for months, watches his weight, his heart beat, and his timing, leading up to the event itself which lasts more than 4-5 hours even for some of the best non-professional runners. Truth be told, I am yet to come across a marathon runner who has not felt a positive impact of the sport on their life, and if I had any additional energy left for a physical sport, I would certainly consider taking it on.
I am reminded today of this sport because I read in the news about the 3rd International Lahore Marathon. In a country like Pakistan, where avenues for physical training and activity are extremely limited, the promotion of an international marathon race, despite idiotic opposition from some religious groups, is a wonderful sign of increased sensibility towards physical and mental health of the people.
It was refreshing to see pictures of large numbers of young men and women competing in the marathon. There was even a tricycle race for the disabled (on wheelchairs), a race for the visually impaired, and a special ‘fun race’ for the slightly faint hearted! Not all may have finished the 42 kms of the marathon, but for the first-timers, this may not have even been about finishing at all – for me it would have been about participating, and training my mind and my body for the strenous race. While Kenyans dominated the winnings, as always, I hope all others competing realized that true virtue of the sport lies equally in beating and exceeding one’s own personal best.
On this occasion, I think it is useful to highlight the related message from the President of Pakistan:
This event and the promotion of tourism have helped in creating a soft image of Pakistan. Through this international competition, the people of Pakistan have rejected the extremists, giving them a clear message that they are keen to organise and participate in such healthy sporting activities.
We belong to a moderate country. We are fond of culture, sports and tourism and this is the distinction of a peaceful country. Sports is vital for a healthy society.
This race, and other activities for the youth are a wonderful display of leadership by the organizers. It is a worthwhile endeavor and I hope buisnesses and the government will support them as much as possible. It must have been difficult for the marathon runners to run and breathe-in the polluted city environment, but one hopes that will also improve over time. If Beijing and Mexico City can start cleaning up their environment, so can Karachi and Lahore. Maybe the thousands of marathon runners will form a lobbying group to promote a cleaner environment – one other positive outcome of this race.