‘I want to come out a winner today’ - Race for Survival in Pakistan
“I want to push myself as hard as I can so I come out a winner today at the marathon. My friends and I are glad to run for a cause showing EVERYONE in Pakistan and across the world that we care about children who die young due to lack of good food. This will definitely make racing worthwhile,”said a 12-year-old participant, Hajra Emaan.
On the morning of October 23rd 2013, 240 children in Pakistan joined the Race for Survival along with the other 50,000 children who ran the race in over 67 countries. A mix group of boys and girls between the ages of 11-15 years ran the marathon distance of 42.195 kilometres in three cities in the country. 120 of these children ran in Islamabad at the Ibex Club.
Buses full of children from 15 different schools including participants and guests, full of excitement and energy, streamed in steadily at the venue at 9:30 am on the sunny morning. The Campaign team and representatives of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi (ITA) with whom we were collaborating for the Race for Survival this year, began dividing participating children in 4 teams; yellow, green, purple and blue.
Under the leadership of a sport and fitness consultant Rana Nasarullah and his team we began the marathon at 10:00am. Holding the batons for each team, the first lap was run by Nasir Iqbal, Pakistan’s National Squash champion, Farhan Mehboob, Pakistan’s Number 2 Squash player, Jamshed Gul, National Squash Coach and David Skinner, Country Director Save the Children in Pakistan. The batons were handed to the first child from each team marking the beginning of the race.
Coming in the first place was the green team completing the total distance in 2h25m19s followed by the yellow team in the second place, blue in third and purple in fourth place.
Speaking at the closing ceremony chief guest Dr. Jahanzeb Aurakzai, Director General Ministry of Health Services Coordination and Regulation commended the efforts of the children in support of the cause. David Skinner while presenting the global ‘Lives on the Lines’ report to the chief guest said: “Pakistan is off track towards MDG 4. The child mortality rate in Pakistan declined by 23% over the last decade, while the newborn mortality rate declined by 15%. Pakistan continues to experience high child mortality rates, and almost half of under-5 child deaths occur among newborns.”
While talking to media the 13-year-old Mustafa Ali said: “If we being so small can run for so long for other children's survival, why can’t the government, being so big, do anything for them?”
Mike Novell, Save the Children’s Regional Director for South and Central Asia Region also attended the event. “I was not expecting this level of participation and enthusiasm on my way here,” he said. “Seeing this involvement of children took me by surprise”.
Hajra is running to raise awareness for Pakistani children who die each year due to lack of nutritious food.
Hajra is a Grade 6 student at Beacon Light School in Rawalpindi, one of the many in Pakistan participating in the Race for Survival on 23rd of October 2013. Whilst giving us a tour of her school she mentioned regretfully how it lacked a playground big enough to accommodate all the students and did not have any adequate physical activity classes. Nonetheless, Hajra considers herself lucky to have four siblings with whom to compete with at sports.
“When our teacher at school asked us if we would like to volunteer for a race that will be taking place worldwide, we were unable to contain our excitement. Why wouldn’t we want to be a part of something that was happening everywhere on the same day?” she said.
Hajra and her friends have been practicing for days. During the race rehearsal, they told us how privileged they felt to run in a ground as big as the event grounds rather than the small track at school.
“We didn’t quite understand the reason behind the race prior to being briefed by the coaches,” she said. “Now my friends and I are glad to know that we’ll be showing everyone in Pakistan and across the world that we care about children who die young due to lack of good food. This will definitely make racing worthwhile. “
Hajra also admitted to wanting to beat her friends at the race and take home a trophy with Save the Children’s name on it.
“I want to push myself as hard as I can so I come out as a winner tomorrow at the marathon,” said the 12-year-old, gleaming with enthusiasm. "I'm already looking forward to next year’s Race for Survival!"