Arif Ali is taking it all in his stride

Arif Ali will be running the small park BIG RUN as a member of the big Steel City Striders team that will cover the whole 24 hours in hour slots. Below, Arif tells us about his approach to running, what it’s like to run in Ramadan and sends a message of support to our friends in Palestine.

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Who are you? Please introduce yourself!

Hi, my name is Arif, I was born in London, and moved to Sheffield over 14 years ago, when I came for my first job in Sheffield. I enjoy IT, and my work is also in IT. And obviously I love running

Tell us about your running journey. Why did you start?

When I used to be in London several years ago, up until 2003, I used to run regularly around Wanstead Flats area. We used to do this on approx. twice a week and with the group of people I was running approx. 15 kilometres a week

When I moved to Sheffield in December 2003, first, I got lazy, and secondly, I blamed the hills for not running; so, I got really unfit and put on some weight.

As of January 2017, I re-started running, in the aim for raising monies for Cancer Research UK (CRUK), on the basis of how much the NHS and the Cancer support did for my mother.

This was a very slow process, and very tiresome. I joined the gym, and my first attempt only lasted about 10 mins doing about half a mile. However, I slowly progressed over a few months, and I found that I was able to do about 5K on the treadmill, and within that time I found out about parkrun; so, I decided to take that on in March. I’m proud to say, that my first parkrun time was 34:14.

After a small break of small injuries, I was back on it again in September, especially with my first ever 10K race coming up at the end of September

I discovered the Couch to 5K (C25K) group run by a few Striders, and joined up; this gave me so much, that it helped with my running, with posture and form. There’s much more detail in my blog post about this.

What’s so good about the Steel City Striders? ?

I joined the Steel City Striders (SCS) in September 2017 just before doing the Sheffield 10K. As it’s a big club you have a variety of people with newbies and some people with great experience. I learnt loads from the Facebook group, where I was given great encouragement, advice and support. Further from that, running regularly in the training runs, I have met some great people with great experiences. Just by running with these people, I have learnt loads, and have been able to apply the advice that they have given. This has helped me a lot over the past 6 months, with my running journey.

The Steel City Striders contingent at the Sheffield Half Marathon

Why are you participating in the small park BIG RUN?

I am a runner, and also try to support campaigns where possible for Palestine. This event combined both factors together.

What do you hope it will achieve?

I would hope that it can raise further awareness of the issues in Gaza and the rest of Palestine.

What do you think you will get from participating in the small park BIG RUN.

I would hope to speak to people, and find real life stories on issues in Palestine as well as having some fun at the same time.

Do you have a message for our friends in Gaza?

Stay firm and resolute, our prayers are with you, and hopefully you are able to get freedom that you seek.

What has it been like training for this run during Ramadan?

This was my first year running in Ramadhan, and I was quite nervous and apprehensive. The main reason being was about hydration and tiredness after the runs. I had also signed up for a race, which was being staged 5 days after the start of Ramadhan too. I found a small post from a Muslim football coach who had a few great pointers, I picked on a few of these, and I believe this has helped overall. When I did my initial run I felt good and there were no adverse effects later in the day. You can read more about my experience of the race in my blog.

Overall after this experience, I will have managed to do more miles in the month of Ramadhan. With a week to go I have managed  106 miles, and my record in a Gregorian calendar month is 110 miles. I am expecting to beat that by about 10 miles if everything goes to plan.

So, all in all, it’s been a fantastic month when it’s come to running!

Anything else you’d like to say?

I hope we can raise more money than last year, and we can go beyond that. I hope this is an enjoyable event for everyone, and we can raise awareness of the issues in Palestine.

Many thanks Arif!

Links
Arif’s blog • parkrun  • couch25K • Steel City Striders  • Training and fasting

For AFC Unity, pre-season training starts at the small park BIG RUN

“I’m honoured to be involved with and coach such a fantastic group of women, who have done so much for the community, and if by taking part in small park BIG RUN they can also help support other women in Palestine then that’s even better!” says Jay Baker, of AFC Unity.

Jay tells us more below about AFC Unity and why they are relishing the challenge of taking part in the small park BIG RUN in Meersbrook Park, Sheffield, on 16/17 June.

“AFC Unity is a social enterprise and one of the very few independent women’s football clubs around.  It fields an 11-a-side first team playing in the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women’s County Football League.

“The club runs introductory sessions called Solidarity Soccer created for women wanting to get involved in the sport, and several community campaigns from being one of the very first football clubs to support food banks with matchday donation drives, to offering discounts for trade union members and promoting trade unionism, to maintaining a commitment to only using certified fairtrade footballs in training sessions and home games.

“AFC Unity was  also a key host on the Sheffield stop of last year’s UK tour of the Diyar women’s football team from Bethlehem, with a tournament at the U-Mix Centre which raised awareness of the plight of Palestine not just in Sheffield, but amongst the AFC Unity players themselves, who were moved to try and do more for the Palestinian cause.  [Diyar opened and then participated in small park BIG RUN 2017!, Ed]

“Taking part in small park BIG RUN is just one of the things AFC Unity has chosen to do, with several first team players relishing the challenge of running together in small park BIG RUN at the start of their pre-season schedule!

“AFC Unity co-founders Jay Baker and Jane Watkinson may not be doing much more than walking due to injuries, but are hoping AFC Unity players will continue to set the bar higher for football teams utilising the sport for positive social change.

“‘As a player myself,’ explains Jane, ‘I feel pride in playing for a team that extends its sense of teamwork and collectivism beyond the football pitch, and small park BIG RUN is a worthy and important part of that.’

“Adds Jay: ‘I’m honoured to be involved with and coach such a fantastic group of women, who have done so much for the community, and if by taking part in small park BIG RUN they can also help support other women in Palestine then that’s even better!'”

Thanks so much to AFC Unity for your support! For more information  visit their website.

To sign up to the run yourselves click here.

Enter a team for small park BIG RUN 2018!

The ;Group Belonging’ Team from 2017

Did you know you can sign up for the small park BIG RUN 2018 as a team?

In last year’s run over fifteen teams took part. Already signed up for 2018 are Sheffield Woodcraft Folk, Couch25K, Steel City StridersSheffield Labour Friends of Palestine, Kihafe and Urban Lycra Collective!

It’s entirely up to you to decide how your team approaches the run. For example:

  • run for the whole 24 hours in shifts or relays
  • altogether in one time slot as a group or,
  • only during the hours of darkness.

It’s up to you! To create a team and invite your friends, colleagues, family etc to join it is straightforward. Click here then select ‘Create a team’ and follow the instructions.

Options You are given a number of options including naming, describing and setting an optional password for your team.  If you haven’t already entered the run you will be offered an option to do so.

You can also manage the team settings and, most importantly, invite people to join your team either via a web link or through an email interface.

More info Should you have any problems or questions about entering your team please contact us.

 

On the road – tennis for the people

[Sarah Peck will be conducting an open session of Road Tennis at the small park BIG RUN on Saturday 10 June between 2.00 and 3.30pm. Below Sarah gives us a truly fascinating insight into this community sport]

Road Tennis is a cross between lawn tennis and table tennis. Indigenous to the Caribbean island of Barbados, we are now playing it right here in Meersbrook.

Legend has it that Road Tennis was invented in Barbados in the 1930s as the ordinary person’s version of lawn tennis. Still under oppressive colonial rule and with significant racial and social inequality, road tennis grew within Barbados’ impoverished black communities, who were not able to access exclusive lawn tennis clubs. Out of this came something fantastic!


Necessity meant that the equipment used had to be cheap and easy to get hold of. Bats and nets were simple pieces of wood, and balls made from disused tennis balls with the outer fur removed. Courts were marked out on public roads, often in the middle of clusters of houses, providing entertainment and audience participation. The game has continued to develop, and whilst there is now a professional element to road tennis in Barbados with big-money prizes available, much of the play remains in community spaces and embedded within community life.

“As a beginner you can just pick up a bat and play, there aren’t any particular skills you have to learn, you can just have a go.”

I played road tennis regularly whilst I was living in Barbados. It’s addictive and a really fun game to play. I also feel that it embodies how sport should be.

The equipment needed is pretty minimal and can be made at home; no special shoes or expensive rackets means that it’s accessible to everyone.

I also like the way the game is played. As a beginner you can just pick up a bat and play, there aren’t any particular skills you have to learn, you can just have a go. Part of the fun is developing your own techniques as you go along.

Unorthodoxy, often stifled in many sports, is king here. My husband has recently developed what he calls ‘the super serve’, an almost un-returnable serve that skids just over the net. I have no idea how he does it! And that’s part of the fun – trying out trick shots and different spins and slices. This is a game of craft and cunning, not about fitness, gender, age or agility. In fact, rumour has it that road tennis players peak once they’re over 40 – there aren’t too many sports you can say that about!

I also like the community spirit that drives road tennis, and this is something we’re trying to recreate here in Sheffield. Traditionally the courts are in a public space, with a net left at the side of the court, so anyone can come along and play. The sessions we’re running in Meersbrook Park work on a similar principle, trying to make the most out of our great community spaces, and as a way of meeting new people.

Finally road tennis is just really fun! You can have crazy rallies that seem to go on forever and silly shots that come out of nowhere. We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know new friends, from lots of different walks of life. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much playing sport before and that’s what sport should be about.

We’ll be supporting the Small Park Big Run event and will be there from 2-3.30 on Saturday 10th of June. Do come along and have a go!

We’re also at Meersbrook Park multi-sports area 6.30-8pm every Tuesday night, come and join us! Everyone is welcome (and it’s free)!

For more information, updates and great videos go to:

https://www.facebook.com/sheffieldroadtennis/

http://www.meersbrookpark.co.uk/m-u-g-a-free-sports-sessions-every-thursday/

 

Freedom of movement – a human right worth running for!

This year we celebrated the 85th anniversary of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass. In 1932, tired of the denial of access to the uplands of the area now known as the Peak District, upwards of 400 activists from Manchester and Sheffield walked from Hayfield to Kinder Scout – in effect a mass illegal trespass of the countryside.  The ringleaders were arrested and imprisoned. But their efforts weren’t in vain – and are said to have been one of the major catalysts in securing free countryside access for the general public and to the creation of the national parks.

Some of us were fortunate to attend an anniversary walk, organised by Manchester Greenpeace Network, that traced the same route as those brave and determined people.

It served as a double reminder that, firstly, our own freedom to roam was only quite recently won and, secondly, for many people around the world this still isn’t the situation.

One of the main reasons we decided to organise the small park BIG RUN was to draw attention to the truly shocking restrictions placed on Palestinians’ rights to free movement.

Arbitrary imprisonment, enclosure, the illegal separation wall, checkpoints, roadblocks, border closure, blockade, Israeli only roads, travel and visa restrictions are examples of the many frustrations to free movement  Palestinians experience.

Over the years these restrictions on free movement have increased causing considerable suffering and hardship. They have led to severe limitations of the everyday life activities we take for granted such as travel, trade, access to work, social interaction, education and healthcare – and even to dignity.

Accounts of women being forced to give birth at checkpoints are truly shocking: “Between the years 2000 and 2006, more than 68 Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints, according to statistics from the Palestinian health ministry. Of these, 35 women miscarried, and five died in childbirth.” [Source: Wikipedia]

The right to freedom of movement is enshrined in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The small park BIG RUN seeks to draw attention to this inequality, this outrage. But furthermore we seek to celebrate the rights we do have. Every time you run it is an expression and celebration of that joyous and universal freedom to move.

Join us at the small park BIG RUN on 11 and 10 June 2017 where you can celebrate with us!