Pakistani runners gear up for multiple marathons in 2024

12 Pakistanis will be running the world renowned Tokyo Marathon on Sunday

Muhammad Junaid
Muneeb Farrukh

A wave of excitement has engulfed the running community of Pakistan since a large number of marathoners will be participating in multiple majors during the next few weeks.

12 Pakistanis will be running the world renowned Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, 3rd March. Meanwhile, more than 10 Pakistanis will take part in the Boston Marathon on 15th April. Additionally, 25 Pakistanis are gearing up for London Marathon on 21st April.

The United Kingdom’s second biggest marathon in Manchester on 14th April 2024 will also features Pakistanis, including Geo News Anchorperson, who is also a Boston Marathon finisher of 2023, Muhammad Junaid.

The list includes many overseas Pakistanis from the United Kingdom, United States, United Arab Emirates and other European countries, besides those who are traveling for these marathons from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.

Last year saw the biggest number of Pakistani marathon runners in any World Marathon Major in Berlin Marathon 2023, which had a significant number of women runners as well. The race gave Pakistan some sub 3 hour marathon finishers with Muhammad Sajjad leading fast-paced marathon for Pakistan in 2 hours 37 minutes followed by Amin Mukaty, Abdul Rehman, Sadiq Shah and Faisal Shafi.

Major upcoming marathons. - Geo Super
Major upcoming marathons. - Geo Super

Berlin Marathon 2023 not only gave Pakistani representation a new life but also resulted in many new Boston Marathon time qualifier finishers, such as Ayaz Abdullah who completed the event in 3:11:18. This put him in the competition to qualify for the Boston Marathon for 2025.

The culture of running has evolved among Pakistanis on a larger scale in recent years, which is due to the efforts of local running clubs and many overseas Pakistanis.

The streak of 2023 had a positive impact on this year's lineup where a massive number of Pakistani amateur marathon runners are taking on one of the biggest marathons in the world, the London Marathon, right after Eid-ul-Fitr. Runners will be training for Boston, London and Manchester during the holy month of Ramadan.

Tokyo Marathon

The Abbott World Marathon Majors calendar year starts with Tokyo Marathon, where Faisal Shafi, Adnan Gandhi, Imran Aleem and Hira Diwan of Seaview Runners Club will be completing their fifth star in the programme.

Hira Diwan is the only female participant among Pakistani origin runners at the Tokyo Marathon.

Hamid Butt, a senior marathon runner from Lahore, is returning to Tokyo Marathon after he became Abbott six-star finisher at the same venue in 2023. He will be joined by USA-based nephrologist and marathon runner Dr Salman Khan.

Dr Jehanzeb Mughal, Danish Elahi, Noshwerwan Ali, Shoaib Nizami and Faisal Shafi are part of Pakistan Eye Bank Society’s team, which has been working for charitable cause initiated by Mughal to provide free treatment of oral cancer in Karachi.

Pakistanis gear up for Tokyo Marathon. - Photo by author
Pakistanis gear up for Tokyo Marathon. - Photo by author

Shoaib Nizami is participating in his third world marathon major after organising first official Karachi Marathon on 28th January 2024, which was broadcasted live on Pakistan’s first sports channel Geo Super.

Muhammad Fasih-ul-Saleh is Pakistani runner joining the Tokyo Marathon from Norway. Nizar Nayani, a Pakistani origin runner from Texas who finished the Chicago Marathon in an impressive 2 hours 56 minutes, is also participating in the Tokyo Marathon this year — completing his fifth star.

The Tokyo Marathon is a World Athletics Platinum Label marathon and one of the six World Marathon Majors. Japan is generally considered a difficult destination for Pakistani travelers in terms of obtaining visa. While several of the dual nationality runners did not need visa, some did manage to obtain visas from Japanese consulate Karachi. However, one of the runners from Islamabad, Ammar Mumtaz, was refused the visa resulting him to opt out from his Tokyo Marathon race entry, despite having paid for everything including his charity pledge.

This is the highest number of Pakistanis of any origin participating in the Tokyo Marathon. In 2023, there were 11 Pakistani origin runners who finished the Tokyo marathon, where Dr Salman Khan became the first Pakistani origin Abbott six-star finisher and Hamid Butt from Lahore the second. Fahd Mukhtar, Prem Kumar, Sara Lodhi, Huma Rehman, Fawad Karim, Hasan Tajdar and Ayesha Akhtar were also among the finishers.

The importance of the event can also be judged from the fact that the famous Eliud Kipchoge is also gearing up for the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, which will be his last race before the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Kipchoge celebrates his Olympic marathon victory in Sapporo. - Reuters
Kipchoge celebrates his Olympic marathon victory in Sapporo. - Reuters 

Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon lineup of Pakistanis has also increased from a few runners to 10 this year.

Overseas Pakistani marathon icon Dr Salman Khan is returning to Boston for the fourth time, while a huge highlight is Sadiq Shah, the fastest Pakistani marathon runner of London Marathon 2023 with a time of 2 hours 55 minutes and 20 seconds which made him qualify and accepted for Boston Marathon to be his third world major in a year.

Hamid Butt, 63, is returning to Boston marathon for his third race. Huma Rehman, Azmat Bin Ali, Sahar Halim, Dr Bsherri Anjum and Sahar Haleem are also among the Pakistani runners for Boston Marathon.

Faisal Shafi’s milestone of becoming Abbott Six Star Finisher in Boston could me among the most memorable moments for all Pakistani running enthusiasts. He will be sixth Pakistani overall to claim the title and second among those who have trained for all their majors in Pakistan. The current five Six Star Finishers are Dr Salman Khan, Hamid Butt, Sted Husain, Fahd Mukhtar, Dr Rabia Naeem. Fahd completed his Six Star journey in Chicago on October 8th, 2023.

A glimpse of the Boston Marathon. - Facebook/BostonMarathon
A glimpse of the Boston Marathon. - Facebook/BostonMarathon

London Marathon

London Marathon this year, again right after Ramadan, will have the biggest number of Pakistani runners as so far more than 25 Pakistanis are ready for this grand marathon in London.

Pakistani runners from Karachi, Islamabad, Dubai, USA, UK and Norway are participating.

Journalist Rehman Azhar will be running his third World major in London, followed by Berlin and Chicago in 2023.

Babar Ghiaz and Jamal Khan, the Pakistani expats from Chicago and New York, are also on the track to complete their Six Star journey and London Marathon will bring them one step closer.

Co-founder of Islamabad Running Club, Bilal Ehsan, will also be running London Marathon as his third world major after New York and Berlin.

Semeena Khan, a British Pakistani marathon runner and coach, based in England is returning to London Marathon representing the award winning running community of UK “Muslim Runners”.

Several Pakistani women marathon runners will be part of the London Marathon in 2024. Many of the participants were part of Pakistan’s largest contingent in the Berlin marathon of 2023.

Women from Pakistan will also participate in the upcoming marathons. - Photo by author
Women from Pakistan will also participate in the upcoming marathons. - Photo by author

The London Marathon 2024 Pakistani runners lineup, so far, includes Yawar Siddiqui, Nida Yawar, Muhammad Babar, Dr Ahmad Zubair, Imran Khan Niazi, Hira Diwan, Jamal Khan, Babar Ghias, Shah Faisal Khan, Sarah Lodhi, Semeena Khan, Zohaib Moin, Raees Ebrahim, Murtaza Zaidi, Shariq Samad, Fawad Karim, Nazakat Ali, Jevi Majid, Faisal Sahfi (Wednesday Night Pacers Karachi).

Two couples, Uzma Abid and Abdul Samee and Zain Anwar and Nada Anwar, who finished Berlin Marathon, are also set to join London Marathon together.

Manchester Marathon

UK’s second biggest marathon is the Manchester Marathon and also one of the oldest marathons in the world.

This will be the first big running event right after Ramadan and Eid on Sunday 14th April 2024.

Muhammad Junaid of Geo News will be running the Manchester Marathon this year with many overseas Pakistani marathon runners.

Muhammad Junaid of Geo News will be running the Manchester Marathon this year. - Picture by author
Muhammad Junaid of Geo News will be running the Manchester Marathon this year. - Picture by author

In a country obsessed with cricket, it is great to see Pakistanis taking interest in other sports as well. If the trend continues, a few years from now, you can be rest assured that Pakistanis will be a force to reckon with in marathon running.