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Friday, July 3, 2009

Lahore Marathon - 2005. (2005-12)

Early in 2004, the idea of staging an international marathon in Lahore began to take shape. Led by the vision of the President of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf to present a “soft side” of Pakistan to the world, Punjab’s Chief Minister, Ch. Pervaiz Elahi initiated the formation of a Task Force. The Chief Minister’s Task Force on Lahore, comprising eminent people in diverse fields and professions, were assigned this task by the Chief Minister of Punjab, Ch. Pervaiz Elahi. The Task Force was chaired by Mr. Ghouse Akbar, an eminent entrepreneur who then assigned all the important tasks to organize the race.
The Chief Ministers Task Force held a series of well-attended press conferences. At each stage, the media and public were given an insight into the organization of this mega event. From the start, everyone agreed that both in terms of spreading a positive image across the world and at home, to boost athletics, Long neglected, the Lahore Marathon represented a unique opportunity. The city of Lahore with the backdrop of its historical monuments, rich culture and heritage was an obvious choice for the country’s first ever international Marathon Race. Both AIMS, the Association of International Marathons and IAF, International Athletic Federations, were easily convinced about the new entrant on the world map of international marathons.
Sixty international runners were expected to run along with the home runners representing the Army, the Athletic Federation of Pakistan and the general public, competing for total prize money of US$100,000.
To educate the public On what is required for taking part successfully in marathon running, the Event Managers developed a comprehensive brochure and similar training information was developed for the official website providing easy-to-follow and detailed training schedules. Under the leadership of lan Ladbrokes and Rupinder Singh, over a dozen training clinics were conducted in December at the Punjab Stadium and at selected schools and colleges. At these free clinics the routes were explained and questions of diet, exercise and training were answered. Zachary Kihara and Catherine Katumbu, two renowned professional athletes from Kenya, practically demonstrated marathon running techniques. The three routes, the 42.195 km, 10 km and 6 km were elaborately marked. Following the detailed route plans, organizers quickly got to work marking roads, stenciling route distances on the roads and maintaining the 3 colour coding that distinguished routes and races. On all routes, water points, first-aid centers and presence of 1122 emergency ambulances had been developed. With the cooperation of the Departments of Health, Roads & Civil Works and the local government, all arrangements were in place. Banners, barriers and signage guided the runners and kept all the routes safe and secure for the participants, which remained a primary concern for the organizers.
60-plus elite runners from over 16 countries came to Lahore to mark this historical marathon. The city of Lahore opened its big heart to accord a tumultuous welcome to the Lahore Marathon and elite runners, which was beyond anyone’s wildest expectation.
On the 28th of January, the Chief Minister of the Punjab hosted a dinner for the sponsors, guests and all the elite runners who had by this time arrived in Lahore. At the Chief Minister’s Banquet Hall, which had been specially decorated and illuminated for the event, the elite runners were given a very warm welcome. President General Pervez Musharraf was the chief guest and met the runners individually.
The President greeted all the runners and welcomed them to Pakistan. He highlighted the importance of sports in fostering a more tolerant and egalitarian society and announced his government’s full support for such events.
30th January, the Race Day dawned with clear blue skies. From an early hour, there was a growing buzz in the air. Hundreds of runners, participants and spectators moved towards the Gaddafi Stadium complex. All three races were in place: 42.195 km - the big one, 10km - the hard one and 6km - the fun run.
Thanking everyone for their great support and cooperation, the Chief Minister declared that the Lahore Marathon would henceforth be an annual event. Elite runners take a little over two hours to complete the regulatory 42.195 km distance. In the Men’s Category, Tseko Mpolokeng (South Africa; 2.16.57) became the first winner of the Lahore Marathon, prize money US$ 10,000, followed by David Menyo (Kenya; 2.17.11), prize money US$ 7,500 and Jemanine Boki (Tanzania). The first Pakistani to finish the 42km race was Mohammad Aslam.
In the Women’s Category, Jane Kariuki (Kenya)stood first, followed by Todelech Birra (Ethiopia). The first Pakistani to reach the finish line was Shazia Hidayat. In a carnival like atmosphere, the winners were announced, heralded on to the stage and presented with their winning cheques and bouquets.
Fauja Singh, a 93 years old sikh veteran from England apart from other guest runners was clearly the darling of the crowd, and was given a special gift from the Chief Minister and a Cash award of US$ 5,000, which the great sikh, in his typical fashion, donated to charity. The Standard Chartered Lahore Marathon 2005 reached a well-deserved successful conclusion. History indeed had been made at Lahore.
To Commemorate the Lahore Marathon-2005, a commemorative postage stamp of Rs. 5/- denomination, is being issued by Pakistan Post Office on September 10,2005.