"It has always been my dream to organise a running event in Pakistan."
Z Adventures and Pakistan Youth Outreach have jointly organised the first official marathon in the Northern areas of Pakistan.
The most beautiful Hunza Valley will host the international sporting mega event on 9 July 2016.
The unique Hunza Marathon focuses on raising awareness and funds for charity.
The aim of the organisers is to introduce and promote long distance running in Pakistan as a healthy activity. The race slogan, “SAY NO TO DRUGS” educates the youth to adopt good habits.
The second objective is to provide youth with coaching and supplies to start sports. By encouraging local runners to take up the sport, Pakistan can eventually produce champions at the world stage.
For example long-distance running has picked up in Nepal over the last decade. They now have runners who are competing on a global scale.
Hence with proper training, extremely fit climbers and trekkers from Pakistan can also become brilliant runners.
The Hunza Marathon is the brainchild of Ziyad Rahim, holder of 10 Guinness World Records and Founder/CEO of Qatar based sports travel company Z Adventures.
For this marathon, Ziyad has worked closely with world renowned mountaineers Mirza Ali and Samina Baig who run the successful sports program, Pakistan Youth Outreach.
Samina, the first Pakistani woman to climb Mount Everest along with her brother Mirza Ali have done a tremendous job teaching the youth, especially women to take part in sports.
Speaking about the inspiration behind planning this event, Ziyad exclusively told DESIblitz:
“It has always been my dream to organise a running event in Pakistan. A few years back during my 7 continents ultra-marathon challenge, on my way back from Antarctica, I met up with Mirza Ali and Samina Baig in Chile.
“They both had just returned from Antarctica after summiting Mt. Vinson Massif. Since they were based in Hunza, I asked them if it would be possible to arrange an event and they both agreed.
“Of all the places in Pakistan, I chose the Northern areas because of their sheer beauty and to attract foreigners to see our beautiful country.”
Mirza Ali, Chairman of Pakistan Youth Outreach feels it is important to get the youth running at this event.
In an exclusive message sent to DESIblitz, Ali said: “Since no such events have been organised in the area, this is interesting and unique for young people.
“Many want to participate in unique sports and marathon is one of them. Therefore lots of people are excited. This event is providing equal opportunity for boys and girls to test their ability.”
The race takes place in Karimabad, Hunza, featuring four categories: 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon.
Travelling to Hunza will not be so easy for many runners. Out of town runners have to catch a flight from Islamabad to Gilgit. They then have to drive another 3 hours to reach Hunza.
A day after the race, another 20 odd runners will drive to Khunjerab Pass (The Pakistan-China border) to take part in the 10K downhill race.
The 10K race starts at 15,400ft above sea level. It is the highest border crossing in the world and will be a great spectacle.
Twenty international runners will participate in the first edition of this marathon.
Dr. Klaus Westphal from Germany is coming to take part in the event. He is ranked No. 1 in the Marathon Globetrotters club. Pakistan is the 118th country where he will run a marathon.
There are also over 200 local runners (men, women and children) who are taking part. The organisers are offering free entry to all the local runners and providing them with race kit and shoes.
Despite the marathon happening in the peak summer, runners can expect the temperature to be in the low 20s.
Race morning is probably going to be a little more chilly. With the full marathon starting at 5am, the runners are likely to wear warm clothing, which they can discard once the sun comes out.
Looking ahead to race day, Ziyad said:
“I am looking forward to seeing everyone enjoy themselves and embrace this new sport. It is a sport that does not require any major investment.
“So whether you are young or old, rich or poor, all can be part of the event and can run, walk or even crawl to the finish line.”
All the international runners will get to explore the natural beauty of Hunza Valley and its historical places.
The package provided by Z Adventures includes: 4 nights’ accommodation, guided tours to 2 famous forts, a trip to Khunjerab Pass and short excursions along the way.
After the race, all the runners will enjoy a gala dinner where they will get to witness a local dance show.
High level dignitaries and government officials will also attend the evening gala which includes a barbecue.
Major TV networks, print and online media are expected to cover the event.
There are further plans to organise mega marathon events in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Murree and Sialkot as part of the Pakistan Running Series established by Z Adventures.
Later the events will be held at other cities around Pakistan. The organisers are hoping to find enough sponsors and support from local and regional authorities to carry out their mission.
Hopefully, with the success of the inaugural Hunza Marathon, one can expect a bigger event and more runners to visit one of the most beautiful places on earth in 2017.
For more details of the 2016 Hunza Marathon, please visit the Z Adventures website here.