On April 7, 2017, Iran held its very first international marathon. Hundreds of runners traveled to Iran to participate in “TehRUN.” Many women, some who traveled long distances to participate, were disappointed when they found out – just two days before the race – they would not run in the full marathon. Government officials decided that the women running should be in a stadium separate from the men.
Before the race, Sebastiaan Straten, the Dutch race organizer, told the Washington Post, “As an organizer I did not accept that. Personally, I do not agree with [that rule] and we are trying to find other ways to take steps forward for female running in Iran.”
He also added, “By segregating males and females at the last minute and forcing women to run a shortened route way on the outskirts of the city, officials have not only failed in delivering what they promised, but also subjected women, local and foreign, to discrimination.”
One of the goals of this run was to build bridges between Iran and the rest of the world. Iran’s laws require men and women to run separately, and they are not allowed to be spectators at the opposite sex’s event. The women who were participating in the race were asked to “In general dress modestly to respect local customs and religion.” This meant women were required to wear long-sleeved shirts and bandanas or headscarves over their hair.
A handful of women made the decision to hold a “secret” marathon in order to salvage their race. The women ran their first 20 miles in a nearby park and ran the last 6 miles outside the stadium in the 10K race.
Karin Brogtrop-Beekman, one of the “secret” race participants, told CNN, “We came up with this really peaceful solution and we just figured it out late in the afternoon (the day before the event). We decided to do our own event at a women’s park somewhere up the mountain. Just a 700 meter loop all the time and then we jumped into a taxi to the (Azardi) stadium, got into our official clothing and then ran the 10 kilometer (six mile) race.”
Tara Kenkhuis, another race participant said, “It was really cool to see 106 women running together in Tehran in a stadium that’s normally not even open to women. It was really inspiring for me to see the smiles upon the faces of the Iranian women there who saw all of us foreigners coming (to Tehran) just for this run.”
While not being allowed participation in the half or full marathon disappointed the women, they do believe the event reached its goal to build bridges between Iran and the rest of the world. TehRUN certainly took a step in the right direction and showed these women that when they work together they can do just about anything.
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