Thirsty runners welcomed the bottles of water handed to them by Ismaili volunteers as they rounded the course of the Brighton Marathon – billed as the second largest marathon in the United Kingdom.
But for the team of 30 Ismaili volunteers, the trip to the coastal town on Sunday, 10 April went beyond quenching the runners' thirst. It was also extending a hand of friendship and support to some 8 000 runners from all walks of life, who were striving to achieve goals close to their hearts.
Despite the strain of running on what was undoubtedly the hottest day of the year so far, spirits remained as high as the mercury levels. People went to extreme lengths (26.2 miles to be exact!) in the name of significant personal and charitable causes. Among the most touching was a man pushing his disabled brother in a wheelchair along the route, and another in a fireman's uniform carrying a 35 kilogram mannequin in a fireman's lift, in honour of brave fire-fighters who have lost their lives trying to save fellow citizens.
Working side by side with volunteers from across the country, the Ismaili volunteer team – a joint collaboration with the Ismaili Volunteer Corps (IVC) and Youth Cultural, Social Network (YCSN) – took ownership of the Water Station at Mile 20. It was from this point in the course that the runners would embark on one of the hardest stretches of their run; supposedly the most psychologically and physically challenging section of the race. There was enormous responsibility on the team to motivate and rehydrate the athletes.
“It is an honour and with a real sense of pride that I can serve with fellow Ismailis at the Marathon and have the opportunity to represent the IVC in such a large national event,” said Brighton Jamatkhana Mukhiani Saheba Shafina Dhanani, who was a member of the volunteer team.
Through their Get Involved programme, the IVC and YCSN seek to further engage the Jamat in the wider communities in which they live, and the Brighton Marathon opportunity was a good fit for the Ismaili Council for the UK's “Good Citizenship” theme. In the past the Ismaili Community have partnered with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games on initiatives like clearing derelict green spaces in the Olympic Zone, and with Transport for London in bus shelter art projects.
The willingness of Ismaili volunteers to serve, and their professionalism and dedication made a mark on the organisers. “The Ismaili Volunteer Corps were a credit to their organisation, providing the loudest and most enthusiastic of all volunteers along the course,” said Danyal Kola, one of the Marathon organisers.
“Long may their support and contribution to events of this nature continue. Well done all!”