A year ago two cousins, Majid Butt and Zeeshan Khan, Kashmiris from the valley of Kashmir, but who now live in Los Angeles, told me they wanted to run the London Marathon – writes Victoria Schofield
‘Oh!’ I said ‘you and about 40,000 other people also want to run the London Marathon! You’ll need to run for a charity which has allocated places.’
In 2012 my daughter, Alexandra, had run the London Marathon for Afghan Aid, which has a track record of over thirty years’ continuous presence in Afghanistan, its work now reaching 1,682,000 ‘vulnerable people’, men and women, boys and girls. So I suggested they too run for Afghan Aid.
As Kashmiris, they might have decided that they didn’t want to raise money for a charity which did not benefit other Kashmiris. But not a bit of it. They readily accepted and signed up, embarking on the necessary fundraising to secure their places.
Arriving in London two days before the marathon at the end of April they had only a short time to acclimatise to jet lag as well as undertake the necessary formalities of registration amidst thousands of others. Yet their enthusiasm for achieving their cherished goal on the streets of London was contagious, other family members travelling from the north of England to cheer them on.
When the day came they donned their Afghan Aid bibs and, with half a million spectators, off they went. Watching a marathon, with its peculiar type of endurance, is always exciting, but the joy of seeing my Kashmiri friends, domiciled in the United States, running to help less fortunate people living in Afghanistan seemed like a remarkable geographical and multi-cultural achievement.