“When you are training you need to make sure you sleep on time and have a healthy diet. It is important that you have a balanced life. If you don't get enough sleep and don't eat proper food then you will most likely get injured.”
Myra Nur Lakdawala sums up the life of a modern athlete. An Ismaili runner from Karachi, she holds a national record in Pakistan in long-distance running.
Modern sport is all about hard work, technique and discipline, she says. Absence in any of these three elements results in sub-par performance.
She was speaking to young Ismaili athletes at the Sports Fellowship programme organised by the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Pakistan.
The Sports Fellowship in Athletics and Mountain Climbing provides young Ismaili athletes of tomorrow with the opportunity to learn from national stars like Myra Lakdawala and Samina Baig, the first Pakistani female to conquer Mount Everest. In addition to training and mentoring young athletes, the Fellowship also provides a platform to keep youth inspired and engaged in healthy sport activities.
Myra set her national record while competing in the the ladies 3,000-metre run at the DunRen Open meet held in Linwood, Scotland in July 2012. Then 18 years old, she completed the long distance run in 11 minutes, 18.96 seconds. Her world-class performance earned her an athletic scholarship from the University of the Pacific in California, where she is pursuing higher education in sports medicine.
“Breaking records is great, but time and experience has taught me to be humble and kind,” says Myra. “Pakistan is my home and it has nurtured me through all my ups and downs, which is why I think it's important to give back to my country.”
The track and field part of the Sports Fellowship was organised in collaboration with the Ismaili Council for Karachi and Balochistan. Myra conducted the 10-day long training programme for athletes aged 9 – 12.
The training regimen varied, with a different focus each day, says Myra. “Some days we did agility activities, other days we focused on jumping and throwing skills. Most importantly we tried to give the young athletes a taste of speed workout and interval workout.”
“In running, those are the two workouts that dictate your training and the improvement you see in race times,” explains Myra. “Our main goal though was to focus on making sure that the participants had fun, but at the same time instilling the notion of hard work and dedication.”
This was the first athletics camp that Anjiya Shahid had ever taken part in. “The training we got was of the highest quality,” she says. “The camp has helped me immensely and has given me a much clearer perspective on how to take myself one step forward in athletics.”
Participant Ilyan Ali was so inspired by Myra and her achievements that after the fellowship training, he joined a private institute in Karachi and is attending coaching in athletics on a regular basis. Ilyan hopes to compete in the Olympics one day.
The Sports Fellowship in Mountain Climbing brought together 19 youth in Shimshal, in the Hunza Valley of northern Pakistan. Leading the programme were Samina Baig and her brother Mirza Ali — a professional climber and founder of the Pakistan Youth Outreach training institute.
Farah Suleman from Hyderabad was excited to meet Samina: “She is my role model and I can’t wait to get trained by her, to climb these huge, scary but very beautiful mountains of Shimshal.”
Samina gained international renown in 2013 when she became the first woman from Pakistan (and the first Ismaili woman anywhere) to climb to the summit of Mount Everest. In 2014, she and her brother went on to conquer the seven highest peaks on seven continents.
The programme participants — including nine females — lived in tents at a base camp, where they enjoyed delicious soups and barbeque in very cold weather. They were taught how to use harnesses, crampons, rope, and maps. They also learnt how to pitch a tent, hike on rough terrain, climb rock and ice, and all about glacier travelling.
“Climbing the white glacier was a dream,” said Zorain Naushad from Karachi “It was the scariest experience but we made it, and it is so far my greatest achievement in life”. Shabana from Hunza has lived around mountains all her life but the fellowship offered her first experience of climbing rock and ice, which she described as “amazing”.
“It is a matter of pride for the Jamat to see young women like Myra and Samina excelling in sports at the global level,” says Shamez Mukhi, Chairman of the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Pakistan.
“Every year, we see young men and women from the Pakistan Jamat winning gold medals in sports, arts, music, scouting and guiding,” he continues. “I say to them and their parents BRAVO, and keep going!”
This story was adapted from an article published in The Ismaili Pakistan magazine in December 2014.