ICYMI: Afghanistan’s running women

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    Five Afghan took part in the Marathon of Afghanistan on November 4th. Image via the National Post.

    The second Afghanistan Marathon was held this past weekend. Among the participants was Martin Parnell of Cochrane, Alberta, a veteran of more than 250 marathons, who accompanied Kubra, a 25 year old Afghan woman for her first marathon. The National Post has an excellent recap of their journey:

    For almost seven long, gruelling hours, he had coaxed, pushed and encouraged a young Afghan woman to complete the 42-kilometre regulation distance that made up the world’s most secret marathon. When the pair crossed the finish line with only eight minutes to spare before the official cutoff time, it was the end of an eye-opening international odyssey for the 60-year-old runner from Cochrane, Alta.

    For a man who became famous across Canada by completing 250 marathons in a single year, and has raised more than $1.3 million for the Right To Play international charity, his finishing time was actually the worst he had ever clocked. But the joy on the face of the 25-year-old Afghan woman made such a detail irrelevant.

    “There was never a better time to set my worst-ever time,” said Parnell, now back in Alberta after his secretive journey this month.

    Five Afghan took part in the Marathon of Afghanistan on November 4th. Image via the National Post.
    Five Afghan took part in the Afghanistan Marathon on November 4th. Image via the National Post.

    According to the article, the race is held under secretive conditions to ensure the safety of the runners:

    The pre-race secrecy about the timing and location was vital, said Parnell, as the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan are a constant deadly threat — particularly when women dare to take part alongside men.

    “The five local women who took part this year are the new leaders who are stepping outside the norm. They are making a statement by using the marathon as a vehicle to show they are going to do what they need to do and they are not going to be stopped,” said Parnell.

    The article has a full recap of Martin and Kubra’s journey together, including the fact that many people along the way invited them in for tea, not realizing they were participating in a race. Read it here.

    The Afghanistan Marathon was first run in 2015 with 37 runners taking to the course and was the first marathon staged in Afghanistan. This year, 70 runners participated. A 10K event was also held with 120 runners participating.

    – Ravi Singh