6th Palestine Marathon: We Don’t Run for a Cause; The Run is The Cause!

“We Love Life If We Find a Way to It”

-Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian Poet

Usually people run marathons and ask others to sponsor them to run for a cause, but in Palestine, it’s a bit different: here the race is the cause!

Restricted in their right to movement in their daily life, seven thousand Palestinians and internationals from 70 countries around the world participated in the 6th annual Palestine Marathon this year.

This year’s race was organized by the Palestine Olympic Committee, but it was first organized by Right to Movement, an organization committed to raising awareness about the restrictions imposed on Palestinians due to the occupation through running and exercise, who founded this race.

The Palestine Olympic Committee (POC) is an independent civil organization that sponsors the Palestine Marathon. The POC is recognized as a member in the International Olympic Committee which oversees the Olympics and Sports Activities. The objective of the POC in the Palestine Marathon is to focus on the basic right to move freely in Palestine.

The race included a family race of 2 km, as well as a 10 km race, half marathon (21 km), and the full marathon (42 km). Families, students, elders, people with disabilities, children and trained athletes ran the series of races within the marathon.

The Palestine Marathon’s aim is to establish a running culture in Palestine. It is an opportunity that provides Palestinians with the chance to move in a new and fun way which also builds a relationship based on the love for running and cultural exchange between Palestinians and people from around the world.

The race shows the outside world a new side of Palestine and Palestinians. It is about creating awareness and building understanding across cultures.

The race took place in Bethlehem on Friday while the city was resting and the roads were almost empty; it was the perfect day to have 7,000 runners running around!

Bethlehem is small for a marathon, and you can’t run a long distance without being stopped by a street block or a checkpoint that’s been put in by the Israeli army. Runners had to make two laps through the city and loop through a refugee camp in order to fit the marathon route inside the city. This reality, in and of itself, explained the message of the marathon.

This year 51% of the participants were women, and for those who don’t know, in March, the Arab world celebrates two big events connected to women: International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day! To have this high percentage of women running the marathon is something to celebrate! Women are running by themselves, in groups from work, with their families and kids, all to be part of the bigger cause in calling out for their country’s freedom. Even my mom ran the marathon! Even though it was the shortest one, she said that she wanted to share this and do this with her group from work for Palestine!

Kay, a British woman who is married to a Palestinian and participates in the marathon every year since it began, said:

“I participate in the Palestine Marathon by walking the 10 km every year for 3 main reasons: As an older woman to demonstrate to all women in Palestine old and young that sport is for women as well as men. I also participate as a means of non-violent protest against travel restrictions on Palestinians. And finally, because large group events such as this one brings hope to the community and encourages fun.”

Shadia Qubti, a young Palestinian woman, said that she participates in the Palestine Marathon because as a woman she feels that she has a role alongside her people to raise a voice for freedom of movement.

Running may seem to be a simple act, and having women running may also seem insignificant, but this is not the case in Palestine! We use simple acts to show the world the complicated daily life we face. And as women, we run to show that we are an important part of our community and cause; we run from the heart!

As Bethlehem Bible College, we stand with this movement. This year, our President Rev. Dr. Jack Sara and his family participated in the marathon along with many of our staff, faculty and students! Those of us that didn’t run stood at the front door of the College as the runners ran by us, and we gave them glasses of water, cheered for them, and stood with this great cause that we have the right to freely move in our own land!