The marathon is often described as the holy grail of distance running. Covering 26.2 miles or 42.2km, it is one of the most physically demanding activities one can participate in.
The term marathon goes all the way back to ancient Greece, when a Greek soldier ran from the small village of Marathon to Athens, about 40 km away, to tell the people that the Greek army had defeated the Persians. In 1924, the Olympic marathon distance was officially standardized at 42.195km.
Today, this ancient distance has become a key running feature in most major cities around the world, and a highlight for many runners, recreational and professional. The London Marathon, in particular, stands out as one of the most celebrated city marathons and has become an annual, inspiring and colourful fixture in the global sporting calendar since the inaugural race on 29 March 1981. To date, more than a million people have completed the course, over a billion pounds have been raised for charity and there have been countless amazing tales of human achievement and endeavour.
This year, we are delighted that 12 members of our community will be taking part in the London Marathon on 2 October 2022. Over the course of the last several months, they have been working hard to prepare for the big day. As with all marathon training programmes, this has entailed numerous sacrifices, hardwork, discipline and resilience amidst injuries and other setbacks.
As we get close to the big day, we sit down with some of the runners to understand their motivation to run the marathon, what their training journey has been like and what advice they have for those considering running their first marathon.
- Why are you doing the marathon?
Abbas Bhimji: A sense of accomplishment. Being an avid runner, there is nothing more rewarding than achieving a significant goal. It doesn’t matter if you finish first or last; you are still a marathoner!
Ali Momin: Having completed 5km runs, 10km runs and half marathons, there only remains one final frontier to scale, the absolute pinnacle of running, the marathon. And what better marathon to run than the greatest one in my own city!
Ali Panju: The marathon is the pinnacle of amateur and professional long-distance running. It’s a test of both physical and mental endurance. It’s the next challenge after a half marathon. It forces me to get out and do some running which keeps me healthy.
Arif Chandoo: Great physical and mental challenge as I edge towards 50.
Ariff Sidik: My goal was to complete my first 50km Ultra Marathon. The chance to run the London Marathon came late in my training and having not run the London Marathon before, I could not let this one pass.
Ashiqali Damani: A dream I’ve had since my mid-twenties. However, injuries delayed the dream. Moreover, after going through a health and fitness craze plus the encouragement from SJ, this dream will hopefully become a reality.
Furquan Ismail: I believe life is about pushing your boundaries and constantly stretching yourself – in all parts of life. The marathon is an opportunity to push my running further – I had never contemplated a 26-mile run before. The other element that brought me to this point was the chance to join a journey that others were on already and soak up that brotherhood and experience.
Nadim Kapadia: It seemed like the logical next step in my progression in running as well as a challenge I have always wanted to take on. Moreover, the opportunity to do it with so many others from the community was too difficult to turn away from.
Sajjad Kassamali: For years I would watch in awe as runners would participate in the London Marathon and always wondered what it would be like to push my body to the limit and achieve the holy grail of running.
- What has been the toughest part of training and what has it taught you?
Abbas Bhimji: Staying disciplined in training. Marathon training knows no vacation or excuses!
Ali Momin: The relentless heat we’ve faced this summer and the narrow window in which I’ve been able to run. It’s meant I’ve had to be super disciplined in what time I sleep, what time I eat, what time I wake up etc.
Ali Panju: Getting out in the morning. I find training and running a real chore and know that if it wasn’t for the impending 42km run that I wouldn’t get out. I use social running to force me to train: making a commitment to others means that I can’t back out in the morning.
Arif Chandoo: Turning up every day to train. Consistency is the key which can open the toughest doors.
Ariff Sidik: Getting an injury, achilles tendinitis, halfway along my training. This has impacted my training, but most of all has given me a huge lesson in being patient. You cannot rush back into training but instead, have to find other ways to maintain fitness. Having completed 4 marathons before I know this would be the toughest, due to the injury.
Ashiqali Damani: Recovery from long training runs is seriously painful. Joint and muscle aches even three days after a long run make you feel very humbled and old! The greatest remedy and lesson from this, however, is the importance of stretching, rehydration and general strength work.
Furquan Ismail: Strangely I have enjoyed the training. I think the tough part was thinking about it before it started. It was easier to do once I had my trainers on and out the door.
Nadim Kapadia: Building a rhythm and structure to the training, given the demands of the marathon training plan amidst all the other competing demands of day-to-day life. It requires hardwork, discipline and sacrifice, three essential qualities that I feel can take you far in life.
Sajjad Kassamali: Having injured my back during the final stretch of training, it was challenging having to watch from the sidelines as my friends ran the longer distances together while knowing full well the need for my body to rest and heal for the ultimate race.
- What has been the highlight of your training?
Abbas Bhimji: Doing the long 18-mile runs alongside my fellow brothers from Stanmore Jafferys. The encouragement, motivation and sense of brotherhood have been fantastic. One of the things I have appreciated about SJ running is that there are so many great individuals and minds to learn from.
Ali Panju: I grew up playing the London version of the board game Monopoly. But I’m not sure I’ve visited every one of the squares! As part of my training, we ran the monopoly board – a 16km run through London from Old Kent Road to Mayfair.
Ali Momin: Running from my house in Ruislip to Marble Arch. I’ve just paused and reflected on that again. Ruislip to Marble Arch! Madness.
Arif Chandoo: Training with amazing like-minded brothers.
Ariff Sidik: Being able to do so many long runs with our very own SJ Running brothers. With AAWA training also taking place at the same time, it worked well to do some extra miles and then join the brothers.
Ashiqali Damani: The support and brotherhood demonstrated by the group of guys that are also training for the marathon as well as the general support and guidance from Stanmore Jafferys.
Furquan Ismail: Two highlights for me. First, having more time to think whilst running. Sometimes I think we are too busy. Running gives you this window of time just to think and enjoy the moment and surroundings. I would highly recommend running in the countryside or in parks. Second, being able to put in the miles day after day was a good feeling as I could feel my body developing.
Nadim Kapadia: Seeing the results of my training slowly but gradually pay off. At the same time, the strong social and moral support of the brothers from the SJ family has been an absolute blessing.
Sajjad Kassamali: I thoroughly enjoy the social aspect of running. It is a great way to meet and get to know new people from a variety of backgrounds.
- We hear people describe “life as a marathon”. Now that you are completing your training for the marathon, what does this phrase mean for you and has that given you any new perspectives on life?
Abbas Bhimji: Small goals build into big goals. My marathon training started with 5km runs that slowly increased over four months of training. It’s amazing that someone who has never run more than 5km can finish a marathon, right? Same concept in life. Small incremental changes over time can create big improvements. Dream big but start small. Insha-Allah, with the help of Allah (s.w.t), we will get the strength and courage to achieve our goals.
Ali Momin: I never set out to run a marathon when I first took up running. But the journey has been about taking small steps, aiming for the next target, and then moving on. In life, the bigger prize might seem far away but taking small but consistent steps toward mini-goals makes the journey more realistic, manageable, and achievable
Ali Panju: When it comes to the running race, the 26 miles (or 42km) is really a victory lap as the true “marathon” is in the hundreds of miles of training runs one must do in preparation. In life, the same is true. Any achievement is a reflection of the (usually unseen) preparation. Nothing comes ‘overnight’ and the hard graft should not be overlooked.
Arif Chandoo: Every challenge is conquerable with a positive mindset and consistently showing up.
Ariff Sidik: Our lives are a marathon. We must apply ourselves, and work hard. Rewards don’t come overnight, but they take time. This is true in work, life and education.
Ashiqali Damani: The training is less get-up-and-go and much more programme management! Plenty of emotional peaks and troughs, meticulous planning and bundles of patience are required for what has been a long and ever-learning journey.
Furquan Ismail: I have found the training period just shot past and I suppose that is akin to life. Although it is a marathon, it will shoot past us all. With that in mind, I think it is about getting the most from life and thus always pushing those boundaries.
Nadim Kapadia: Struggle, pain, discomfort, hope, trust, despair, joy – these are emotions one would invariably encounter in the journey of the marathon, as they would in the journey of life. However, as with all journeys, there is an end, and the pain and struggle are only temporary. Focus on the goal, stay your course, don’t get distracted by others and success will be yours.
Sajjad Kassamali: Although I had a training plan in mind for the marathon, I was forced to adapt and change my plan because of my injury. Similarly in life, you can’t expect everything to go smoothly. Rather, anticipate the bumps and adjust your speed and mindset accordingly
- What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing the marathon?
Abbas Bhimji: If you put your mind and focus on your training with proper discipline, the marathon is definitely achievable. Running trains you to set a goal and to have the discipline and determination to finish, even when you encounter difficulty and setbacks.
Ali Panju: The best piece of advice I was given from a past marathon runner was “respect the distance”. Find/develop a training plan that works for you, and then stick to it. Listen to your body and respond accordingly. It is certainly possible if you put the work in!
Ali Momin: Prepare, prepare, prepare. Undertaking the marathon is no joke. It requires a huge amount of sacrifice and you must be prepared at every stage of this journey.
Arif Chandoo: Sign up!
Ariff Sidik: The commitment of running a full marathon is a big one, and it does take up three months of your life. You have to be ready for this and you need the support of your family around you. It’s very rewarding and the day is better than all the training put together.
Ashiqali Damani: Three pieces of advice. First, seek guidance from experienced marathon runners from the very start of your training journey. Second, do not neglect your nutritional discipline. Third, don’t overthink it, if you’re even considering it, take the plunge and do it!
Furquan Ismail: Don’t think about it. Believe in yourself and just do it. You will surprise yourself and realise your boundaries are further away than you thought they were.
Nadim Kapadia: Intentions drive everything we do. Think about what your drivers are for wanting to do this. Once you have your ‘why’, it is then just about execution – getting the right advice, having a plan to follow, staying disciplined and consistent and following the course. Every runner should give the marathon distance a shot as it teaches you so much!
Sajjad Kassamali: Just start running. Don’t think it over too much. Try to find others who are keen to run as well. As you build your stamina, you will begin to enjoy it. Allow that momentum to lead you to run longer distances, but most importantly enjoy the journey! Who knows… it may lead you to a marathon one day!