MOUNTAIN MARATHON IN PAKISTANIn accordance with the Calendar of Activities for Visit Pakistan Year – 2007 issued by Ministry of Tourism, Government of Pakistan, Alpine Club of Pakistan organized the first ever National Mountain Marathon jointly with Tourism Department, Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The objective of the Mountain Marathon were to raise awareness about Mountain Tourism in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), create linkages in Mountain Tourism between Kaghan valley and Neelum Valley, raise awareness about earthquake affected areas of AJK and NWFP and promote and engender interest towards the healthy mountain adventure sports activities amongst the youth of Pakistan, in general, and AJK in particular.
The Marathon started at Kawai, Kaghan Valley, NWFP on 10th September. 150 youths including 95 youths from Azad Kashmir had applied to participate in the Marathon, however out of these 83 reported for participation at Kawai. Earlier all the participants were lodged at Muzaffarabad on 9th September from where they were taken to Kawai by special buses. The Marathon took place in three stages as under:-
STAGESa. Stage -1 – Monday 10th September 07
This Stage started at Kawai (1372 m or 4500 ft) (in Kaghan, Distt Mansehra, NWFP, Pakistan) at 11:30 a.m and then moved along Shogran (2357 m or 7730 ft) and finished at Paya (3093 m or 10145 ft). The total length of this leg was 17 kms involving a climb of about 5600 ft. The distance was covered in record time of 1 hour and 50 minutes by Muhammad Amjad and Ahsan Ali. The stage finished at the lush green pastures of Paya. The participants encountered rain and cold winds during the middle of the hike but finally enjoyed a clear and sunny weather at the end of the day.
b. Stage -2 – Tuesday 11th September 07
This was the most difficult phase of the Marathon which started at Paya (3093 m or 10145 ft) (Kaghan, Distt Mansehra, NWFP, Pakistan) with the participants climbing all the way up to the highest point in the area at Makra (3885 m or 12744 ft). It was a cloudy and rainy day when much of the area was under fog restricting visibility. After climbing the highest point the participants started their descent to Chupsar and Bheri in Azad Kashmir, however due to good guiding arrangements undertaken by Alpine Club of Pakistan and tourism department AJK none of the participants lost the route. The rain made the descent slippery causing few injuries who were evacuated to Bheri by helping hands of the organizers. This 18 kms long stage finished at Bheri (1768 m or 5800 ft) with Imran Khan making it in 2 hrs and 25 minutes.
c. Stage -3 – Wednesday 12th September 07
This stage Started from Bheri (1768 m or 5800 ft) in Azad Kashmir and was conducted in two phases. In phase I the participants descended from Bheri to Patika (854 m or 2744 ft) – a distance of about 18 kms where they had their lunch break. Later the participants embarked upon their last leg of the Marathon and reached the finish line at Neelum View Hotel, Muzaffarabad (671 m or 2200 ft) after covering a distance of 17 kms. This was comparatively long but flatter part of the Marathon. Mr Muhammad Nisar of Pakistan Navy completed first phase upto Patika in 1 hrs 05 minutes whereas he completed the second phase upto Muzaffarabad in 55 minutes.
PRIZE DISTRIBUTION CEREMONYIn the evening on 12th September the Prize Distribution ceremony was held at the Neelum View Hotel, Muzaffarabad which was Chaired by Ch Akber Ibrahim, Minister for Tourism, Archeology and Wildlife, Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Speaking on the occasion Ch Ghanzafer Ali, Secretary Tourism AJK outlined the natural beauty and touristic value of the Azad Jammu Kashmir and while praising the joint undertaking of the Alpine Club of Pakistan and AJK Tourism Department hoped that this event will become an annual event of the area. Lt Col (Retd) Manzoor Hussain, Executive Vice President Alpine Club of Pakistan elaborated that Azad Kashmir potential for domestic Mountain and Adventure tourism and mentioned that it is cheaper to undertake these activities in Kaghan jointly with Neelum Valley. He outlined the effort of the Club in promoting mountain activities in Kashmir by conducting rock climbing courses and competitions in Azad Kashmir. He also briefed about the efforts undertaken by the Club during the devastating Earthquake in 2005. He described the various technical and administrative issues involved in organizing such a Marathon during which all the participants were provided with tents, sleeping bags and all meals for three days without any charge. He hoped that with adequate sponsorship the event shall be organized on annual basis.
Mr Nazir Sabir the eminent Pakistani mountaineer and the President Alpine Club of Pakistan outlined efforts being made by the Alpine Club in promoting mountaineering and adventure activities in Pakistan especially in the Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir. He mentioned about his experiences on the mountains and abroad where he always projected the cause of Kashmir at the international level. He congratulated all the participants for their spirit and courage who participated in the Marathon and the media who covered the event by climbing along with the participants.
Mr Saad Tariq Siddiqi secretary Alpine Club of Pakistan who was the chief organizer of the mountain marathon, gave a detailed briefing about day to day activities of the event. He appreciated the strong determination of the participants, who inspite of the rain, dense fog and bad weather did not loose hope at any time and inspite of some injuries continued their effort not only to complete the marathon but also to win a position. He explained the final marking system based on time taken inn each of the four phase of the marathon. He further went on to say the defaulter who violated the rules of the marathon for penalized for such violation. He cingulated all participants of the marathon especially the prize winners the oldest participants
Mr Gulzar (55 years) from Mirpur AJK, Mr Muhammed Hussain Sulehria (50 years) from Bhairi AJK and the youngest participant Mr Faizan(15 years) from Burewala Punjab for their dedication and willpower to complete the marathon.
Speaking on the occasion the Chief Guest Ch Akber Ibrahim, Minister for Tourism praised the efforts of AJK Tourism Department and Alpine Club of Pakistan for organizing this Marathon and especially the Chief Organizer Mr Saad Tariq Siddiqi and his dedicated team for their inputs to make the event a success. He congratulated all the participants for their courage. He asked the organizers to also involve women in the event.
In the end he gave out the prize money and participation certificates to the top ten winners of the Mountain Marathon. Mr Muhammad Nisar of Pakistan Navy secured the first position by completing the Marathon in a record time of 6 hours and 45 minutes bagging the top prize money amounting to Rs 70,000. Other nine winners according to their ranking were Mr Waris Masih, Muhamad Amjad, Mohammad Azam, Ahsan Ali, Syed Shafiqur Rehman, Irshad Yousuf, Muhamamd Farid, Tariq Mehmood and Syed Imtiaz Hussain. Total of Rs 270,000 were distributed amongst the top ten winners. The Marathon was participated by spirited men of all ages. The oldest spirited participant Mr Gulzar from Mirpur, AJK was 55 years whereas the youngest participant was Mr Faizan of about 15 years of age. Both were awarded special shields on the occasion.
The event whereas the organizing team included Mr Karar Haidri (member Executive Council of ACP), Mr Maqsood Ahmad, Mr Abdul Malik, MR Ashfiq, Mr Bajwa, Dr Usman and Mr Mumtaz Ahmad of Alpine Club AJK and large number of dedicated ACP members and locals. It may be mentioned all the logistic support of the event including the tents and meals for the three days event were provided to the participants free of charge.