KARACHI: The second Lakson Investments Special Olympics Pakistan (SOP) Unified Marathon 2017 kicked off Sunday morning with a host of energetic athletes ready to run for a cause.
The starting and finishing point of the marathon bordered Nueplex cinema, with the ceremonies and food stalls set up at Moin Khan Academy in Defence Housing Authority's (DHA) Phase-VIII.
Regardless of age, gender or physical disability, more than 3,000 participants took part in the event - 800 athletes with intellectual disabilities and 2,200 people without intellectual disabilities.
The race categories were 5-kilometre (km), 10-km, half-marathon and a new category exclusively for children under 13 years of age, the 700-metre kid's dash.
The half-marathon started at 7:30am, 10-km race at 7:45, 5-km at 8:15am and the children's 700-metre at 8:45am.
Seventeen-year-old Aliba Tahir, who participated in the 5-km category, said that though she did not manage to secure any position, she is satisfied that at least she kept running until the finish line. She was of the view that such healthy activities should be promoted so that youngsters like her have more chances to remain fit and take part in healthy events.
Another participant in the same race, Umar Zahid, said he is part of a cycling group that rides for several kilometres a day, therefore taking part in a marathon was something he was very interested in. He suggested that a bicycle category should also be included in the next marathon.
The addition of the new category for children was met with a great response, as many kids participated enthusiastically in the race. Mustufa Hussain, 10, said that this was his first time participating in such an event. He said that the next time he will train beforehand and make sure to secure one of the top three positions.
The venue, Moin Khan Academy, was provided for the event free-of-charge by the DHA. DHA administrator Brigadier Shahid Hassan Ali said that DHA accords utmost priority to serving humanity.
SOP chairperson Ronak Lakhani said that the unified marathon helped renew the self-confidence and self-assurance of people with intellectual disabilities through the power of sports. She added that the event has encouraged differently-abled people to participate in physical activities.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2017.