It is not a field that one would normally write home about. The regulars focus their attention on the 8 tartan lanes, enclosed by an evergreen hedge that protects the track from the encroaching sand. The lanes lend structure and order to your workout; four laps to a mile.
Whether you arrive at 7 am in the morning or early evening, weekdays or weekends, you will never want for company on the inside lanes. Sprinters, middle distance runners, aspiring footballers, old men and women with young hearts, and care free toddlers, you will find them all at the National Coaching Center in Karachi. “Clear the first track”, their common anthem.
I switched to the unpaved side of the hedge last year. The brown and grey mix of packed sand, uneven paths and dried mud. There was something about the other side that called out to me.
1,100 meters edge to edge, corner to corner. Four and half laps to a 5K run. 25 minutes on good days, half an hour on the not so good ones. Dodging foot traffic, ditches, a worn out pavement, wild dogs, a mild incline and industrial strength tire tracks engraved in dried mud. That is the domain I grew up running. Run the chaos strewn path a few times every week and you turn into a demon on the structured inner lanes. It was the same long lonely runs that made me the runner I was thirty years ago. Two decades later it’s the sand and the dirt, the cinders, not the rubber lined faded track, that takes me back to younger days. To dreams of breaking twenty minutes on a distance I couldn’t even imagine walking less than a year ago.
The Karachi Cross Country Championship.
If you have been burning rubber on that treadmill of yours, you should give this one a try. Come prepared though because it won’t be the same. The path is more grueling and demanding. Softer than road running but rougher.
You need to run with your eyes open, balancing each step, switching pace between sand, mud, pavement and ditches. There is ample room for a pack to run together. It’s hard work to maintain, recover or pick up pace once you break it. We have made it harder by adding four artificial pace breakers. Your calves will feel the run for days after you are done. Mine certainly did for the first few weeks. Remember the cheesy cross country slogans. Where do you think they came from?
We will start at 8 am sharp on Sunday morning on 12th February. Registration is free, online and mandatory. You can enroll at http://bit.ly/2kRCsNy.
Come alone or bring a friend. But don’t forget to bring your spirit and your stopwatch. Stare the sand and the dirt into the ground. Introduce your shoe soles to some grime. Show the world you don’t need wings to fly.
See you on the other side of the finish line. Remember it’s just you against the stopwatch. With 5 different age brackets, we will all be fighting the same demons.