AAWA 21 – A first-hand account by Balsall Heath Community Cycling Club

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The Ali Asghar Water Appeal (AAWA) sportive is now a permanent fixture in our sports calendars. This year we had the pleasure of entering 29 cyclists, all riding under the banner of Balsall Heath Community Cycling Club (BHCCC) representing KSIMC of Birmingham.

Leading up to the event, there were mixed emotions from various riders at the thought of participating in AAWA 2021. Some were excited to be part of the main event after being unable to enter last year due to Covid restrictions, others were nervous because they would be riding their longest rides at AAWA.

The club organised many training rides to give our riders a taste of what to expect. We rode to Stratford upon Avon (40 miles), and a Loop around Kenilworth (50 miles) on our weekly Sunday rides, plus many other shorter rides during the week. We had done enough to prepare ourselves for the Gran Fondo.

Finally, the big day was here. We had travelled to London the night before so we could be ready on time for the ride. We arrived at Hujjat Stanmore and were received with smiles from the familiar faces of the SJ volunteers. The lovely masid chai, mandazi and various fruits laid out for us to tuck into. The registration was swift, and we were given our ride numbers and after a beautiful recitation of Ziyarat e Ashura and a short speech by WF-Aid, we set off for the epic journey.

The route around London was certainly a new experience for us brummies. Riding alongside the urban traffic was challenging but the great company more than made up for it. Our groups were formed of riders from various jamaats including hujjat, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Hyderi and Leicester.

One of the highlights of the ride was when all the riders gathered outside Buckingham Palace for a group photo. For lunch and salah, we stopped at the busy but beautiful Richmond Park, after conquering the monster hill that stood between us and the delicious chicken wraps.

The final leg of the ride was upon us and we set off towards the finish line. Throughout the ride, we had great conversations with fellow riders from different jamaats. The light-hearted banter and camaraderie made the ride very enjoyable and created new friendships and bonds that we hope will prosper over the coming years.

As a relatively new cycling club, we see it a great achievement having 29 cyclists complete the AAWA sportive. But the greater achievement was in playing a small part in helping thousands of people get access to clean and safe water. We are truly humbled to have been involved in this great cause and we look forward to playing our part in years to come.

Finally, a shout out to the BHCCC admin team for working tirelessly in the background and handling all the arrangements from booking the hotel, food, jerseys, bike service etc. and also the SJ team, for the brilliant organisation, the warm welcome and the delicious food throughout. May Allah SWT give you tawfiq and more energy to continue delivering such events.