Two hours before the start of an all-male marathon race in Iran this spring, a woman named Mahsa Torabi took a photo, lined up at the starting line, and set off to complete 26.2 miles.
Reaching the finish line, she became one of the first Iranian women to publicly finish a marathon in the country. Around the world, people started calling Mahsa the Iranian Kathrine Switzer (who was famously captured in a photo beating back race official Jock Semple to finish the Boston Marathon in 1967, five years before women were officially allowed to compete).
Mahsa did this with support from Free to Run, an organization that helps women and girls from conflict-affected communities safely participate in sports. I’m so excited to announce Free to Run as our next charity partner!
Unfortunately, in many areas of the world there are few opportunities to participate in sports of any kind. In countries like Afghanistan, harmful cultural and gender norms limit the ability of women and girls to engage in activities outside the home. Started by a United Nations lawyer who lived in areas of conflict, Free to Run was founded with the goal of providing women and girls who have been affected by conflict with opportunities for running, fitness and outdoor adventure. Through sports, Free to Run participants are able to learn important life skills, develop confidence, and learn how to become leaders in their community.
As a runner myself, I can't imagine my life without running. It's changed my life physically and mentally for the better, and it pains me that there are areas of the world where women and girls who are just like me are not able to find the same joy, fulfillment, and sense of accomplishment that I get to experience.
When I stumbled across an article mentioning Free to Run, I was immediately drawn to the organization's mission. Running is such a gift, and I'm privileged to be able to do so openly and without worry of repercussions.
Through our partnership with this organization, you can choose to give 10 percent of your purchase to Free to Run. Your donation will support their country program in Afghanistan, and their refugee program in Hong Kong.
The stories that come from this organization are amazing and inspiring, and I'm so excited to share individual stories with you whenever possible. Here are a few highlights from Free to Run's first couple of years in operation:
Over 50 female students from Free to Run sports clubs in Afghanistan trained for and participated in a 10k race outdoors in the Central Highlands region.
Zainab, a Free to Run Ambassador, became the first Afghan woman to run a full marathon in her country.
Two ultra marathon teams from Afghanistan, including the first mixed gender sports team from the country, successfully completed 250k self-supported foot races, in the Gobi Desert and Sri Lanka.
The inaugural Outdoor Sports Week was the first time that female athletes came together from across Afghanistan to engage in multisport activities and trek through the koh-e-baba mountains.