The Palestine Marathon: Promoting freedom of movement

The West Bank's first marathon took place in Bethlehem to promote human rights and tell an alternative story to one of conflict and war. 
On Sunday 21 April 2013, 650 runners from 28 countries gathered around the Church of the Nativity, which was transformed into an international sports arena for the day, to run run 5, 10, 21.1 or 42.2 kilometers in the hilly streets of Bethlehem, before returning to an uphill finish at the starting point. Palestinians, of which many were running their first official race, made up close to 70 per cent of runners and finished in the top three places.

In the week leading up to the race, word got around that the streets would be closed down on the course that featured refugee camps, Olive fields, the Wall and lots of local shops. Many people gathered to get a grasp of the test of human endurance going on in their streets.

High number of female runners
37 per cent of runners were women. The high number of female participants is a feat for the organisers, who had made great efforts locally to get women to run. Jacky Ka, a 24 year old women and first time half marathon finisher, who helped organise weekly training runs in the West Bank, says she is proud not only of her own performance, but also of the many women involved: “Running up the final hill, I felt so exhausted, but also so proud and full of energy. Running is new to me - it is new to Palestinians - but I believe we will get a lot more women next year. I can’t wait.

Danish women organisers Signe Fischer and Lærke Hein, who got the idea to create a marathon in Palestine two years ago, hugged with a huge sigh of relief and great pride, as the marathon was well underway, and it became clear that their efforts had paid off: “We did this to tell a different story than the one of conflict and war, and I think I can safely say that we were successful.

Registration for next years Palestine Marathon will open shortly on the Right to Movement website .
[This article has been edited by the Operating Team of sportanddev.org.]
Source: http://www.sportanddev.org/?5589/The-Palestine-Marathon-Promoting-freedom-of-movement