Changing young lives one second at a time.

How much of a difference does a fraction of a second make and what does it really cost?

A fraction of a second?

Two years ago I stumbled across an athletics club in Karachi that had it right. A collaboration between a mother and a coach, it focused on introducing young children and adults to athletics. Rather than winning it emphasized understanding personal limits and pushing beyond them every day.

Winning isn’t everything.

Sindh Track and Field club changed the lives of my children. All three of them. For Amin and Salwa it opened up a new healthier world, free from peer pressure, consoles and screen times. A world where they learnt to handle pre-competition goose bumps and butterflies, balance exams, performance and training. They learnt that if you consistently drop a fraction of a second every month, two years later you get to be in a class of your own. They also learnt that the price for that fraction of a second was an incredible amount of pain and discomfort, days of agony, aches and cramps. Hurt that no amount of tears, bath soak, analgesic or pain killers in the world could fix.

For Taha, our eleven year old autistic bundle of joy, the club taught him how to run in a straight line, interact independently with kids his age, pester 80 year old grandfathers out for their evening walks and jump off the first lane.

And it changed me. It gave me the opportunity to spend more time with what really matters — family. Transformed me from a boring actuary and risk consultant into a father. A father who moon lighted as a cook, driver, time keeper, nutritionist, sports photographer, travel agent and film maker at every meet so that he could see his children run again and again.

Dalmia Dreaming — transformed me from a boring actuary into a film maker.

Two years ago I decided that I would do whatever it takes to take this message out to other children in my city. That decision evolved into a commitment to raise funds, shoot pictures and edit documentaries. Also arm twisting friends and family into carrying years worth of shoes, starting blocks, epsom salts, stop watches, chia seeds, VO2max trackers, and equally exotic products from all across the world. Just so that the kids at the club could run a fraction of a second faster that month.

Our most dedicated luggage volunteer struggles with the mountain of packaging shipped to her hotel room in SFO. Image credit — Jehan Ara

I thought I would end up doing this alone but I didn’t. All it took was Facebook posts, Linkedin shares and Whatsapp messages and I had a world of support show up. Random strangers knocking on my door late evening with 4 pairs of response boost shoes. Friends writing checks and wire transfers; artists and designers contributing posters and brochures, photographers donating days shooting meets; parents and students volunteering time.

Together we have done many interesting things. Coordinating athletic events and competitions has been the most fun because the only way you learn to push limits is to go head to head with others willing to push harder than you. That is where all the training meets the tartan track, the tread on your soles goes against the stop watch. Remember winning isn’t everything. Beating the clock is. As long as you are fraction of a second faster this time, you are already a winner. You don’t need a medal to prove it.

Our next event is on the 12 February, in Karachi. This time the theme is a little different.

If you are a serious committed runner you know that nothing compares to a cross country sprint across uneven, unmarked terrain. Once your body gets used to the strain, you can never go back to the tartan track.

Welcome to the Karachi sunrise cross country sprint. 5 age brackets. 10 categories. 3 distances. Cash prizes.

You can volunteer time. Help spread the word to the fastest kids in your neighborhood, college, university or family. Coordinate press and media coverage. Write copy for our press release. Refer sponsors (I would really love to cut a deal with Adidas, Puma or Saucony). Lug some shoes and epsom salts to my doorstep.

That is if you are in Karachi; if you are not, help young children discover athletics, wherever you are. It will change them and it will change you.

Competitions are the life blood of athletics. If we want our kids to succeed and win we have to give them more chances to compete with each other.
Every little tick counts :)