As news of the Queens death broke on Thursday evening it became apparent there would be a distinct possibility that the Richmond Half, SJ Runnings inaugural AAWA event, could be cancelled. What unfolded in the next 48 hours, will reside in the annals of Stanmore Jafferys as a story to tell our children for years as SJ Running organised a fully supported Half Marathon event in 48 hours allowing over 30 gents and ladies to successfully complete their half marathon.
As news started to filter through, messages started to ping across WhatsApp groups. “What’s happening to the Richmond Half?” “Is it cancelled?”. “Surely it will be cancelled, it starts in the Royal Botanic Gardens”. SJ Running knew they had to be on the front foot and have a plan B ready in the event the Half was cancelled. The overriding feeling was the runners had trained really hard for this half, for many their first, money had been raised for WF-Aid’s Ali Asghar Water Appeal. We had to organise our own half marathon somehow. The team convened a late night phone call and an embryonic half marathon event started to take shape.
As news of Richmond Half’s cancellation broke on Friday at 11.34am, disappointment was the word etched on everyone’s lips. But thoughts quickly turned to activating plan B. The runners were informed there would be an event and full details would follow. The brains behind the operations started to add more meat to the plan, ensuring the event had all the elements of a half marathon event, a registration process, water stations, marshals anything and everything to make sure the event felt as special as the running team could make it.
Saturday was all about a call to action. Would volunteers put their hands up to help make it an event? But one thing we know, when SJ has to rally its base together, it never ever disappoints. Offers of help came flooding in. People were determined to do anything they could to support. Trips were made to secure water and food. Chairs and tables were dusted down. Food was donated in copious amounts.
And so to the big day. The day all the participants had been training for the last 2 months. Hours and hours on the road would pay off today. Registration opened at 7.15am. Participants were welcomed to fruits and drinks. Zaheer Sidik opened the event with a recitation of the Holy Quran, race director Ariff Sidik barked out his instructions and Ashiqali Damani took the whole crew through a full 10 minute warm up session. Then one by one, the teams were flagged off in groups of 6. They were met by enthusiastic children handing out water bottles at water stations and marshals cheering their every step.
While many personal records were broken, the overriding feeling from the participants was of breaking through glass ceilings. Some had overcome a huge amount mentally just to complete the Half. They were greeted by family members at the end, with a full on medal ceremony and presentation of finisher T-Shirts to add the icing on the cake of a memorable day.
And they were reminded, there’s only one word on their finisher T Shirt that matters, FINISHER. And each and every single one of the 32 runners was a finisher.
“Alhamdulilah I managed to complete my first half marathon and I am super proud of it ! It was a challenge I would not have even dreamed off few months ago ! I would not have been able to achieve this without the amazing support, guidance and encouragement from the SJ running team, coordinators, and my fellow running colleagues – thank you so much guys ! may Allah bless you all” Yusuf Nurmohamed
“To coin a Strava phrase, ‘Kudos’ to the SJ Running organisers for putting together a great event at such short notice after the news on Thursday night that the Richmond half was cancelled. The wave format that was organised truly carried me through the run, especially the efforts of my group. The event truly captured the AAWA slogan, ‘Let’s do this, let’s do this together‘” Maz Gulamhusein
“I do not consider myself to be a runner and had no intention of running the half marathon. However, in true community spirit, I saw an ever growing group gathering regularly to train and decided to join as a way of keeping fit. Thanks to their ongoing encouragement and plenty of proactive support by the SJ running leadership team, I decided to run the Richmond HM. However, what made my first HM experience truly special was the fact that I ran in our own organised HM with not only a route planned with next to no notice, but group warm up, supporters, marshals and family and friends to celebrate together at the end. A wonderful sense of collective achievement in true SJ spirit!” Hassan Pirbhai