In a first, Tehran is all set to conduct an international marathon. However, in an appalling turn of events, women participants will be forced to run on an indoor track – separately from men.
Just weeks before TehRun, the marathon, women participants received an email from the organization stating they would no longer be allowed to run in the race. However, after listening to the concerns of the dismayed female participants, it appeared that women would be allowed to run after all.
It later emerged that, just two days before the race, that women would run the 26 miles (42 kilometers) inside a stadium instead of taking part in the official route. That is not all; since the Iranian religious authorities forbid men and women to watch sports in which the opposite gender is competing, only women will be allowed to sit on the stands inside the stadium during the race.
The marathon — which is being organized largely by Dutch entrepreneur Sebastiaan Straten and his travel agency, Iran Silk Road — is believed to “build bridges, break barriers.” It is expecting 600 Iranian participants, including 156 women, and 160 foreign runners, among them 50 women.
“TehRUN is a run for international friendship and to promote street running to a large, young Iranian population. Iranians are one of the most hospitable people in the world and I am sure the crowd will show that to the runners,” said Straten.
While opposing the decision of gender segregation, he added, “Personally I do not agree with that and we are trying to find other ways to make step(s forward) for female running in Iran.”
According to Majid Keyhani, the head of Iran’s track and field federation, no professional runners were taking part in the race this year. However, he hoped they would enter the “Persian Run” in future.
Iranian women have had to follow a strict dress code in public since the 1979 revolution. Women, who are brave enough to watch volleyball and football matches in stadiums, face punishments from authorities, as they are legally prohibited to do so.
Last year, no women were allowed to officially take part in the marathon but two defiant women nonetheless ran separately from the men in protest. Masoumeh Torabi and Elham Manoocheri are recognized as participants on the race’s website.
The gender segregation decision was also opposed on Twitter.
I had planned to run in Tehran's 1st intl marathon tomorrow (for the 10k, give me time) but if women have to run indoors, I'll bow out ????— Golnar Motevalli (@golnarM) April 6, 2017
Tehran will host its first in'l marathon on Fri. Men will run on the streets, women, separately, on an indoor track https://t.co/bH84C09xXU— Sara Germano (@germanotes) April 6, 2017