Jerusalem24- Once a year in the spring, residents from the Bethlehem area, Palestinians from near and far, and people from all over the world gather in Bethlehem to participate in one of the highlights of the city’s social and cultural calendar.
They don running shoes, put on sunscreen and a hat, and flock to the alleys and streets of the ancient town south of Jerusalem, either to engage in physical exercise or to cheer on their friends and relations.
The Palestine Marathon aims to establish a running culture in Palestine. It entices Palestinians to move in a new, enjoyable way, provides the opportunity for cultural exchange, and helps build relationships between Palestinians and people from around the world based on a mutual love for running.
The event shows the international community another side of Palestinians; it creates international awareness of the Palestinian story, increases knowledge of Palestinian life, culture, and hospitality, and builds understanding across cultures. Moreover, the annual marathon adds value to the Palestinian economy and the tourism sector.
The Palestine Marathon provides a platform for cultural exchange and exploration. It attracts thousands of Palestinian and international participants and brings attention to one of the basic human rights that are under threat in the State of Palestine: the freedom of movement.
In 2017, the Palestine Marathon was approved as an international marathon by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), and in 2018, it was recognized by the Association for International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS). Its route extends over 42.195 kilometers and offers runners different outlooks on Palestinian everyday life.
Its course includes a few steep hills and sections that allow for fast running while leading through unique scenery, unlike any other marathon. Starting at the Church of the Nativity, in the center of Bethlehem’s Old City, its route takes runners through the town, two refugee camps (Aida and Dheisheh), and along with the apartheid Wall.
Because its distance does not cover the required 42 kilometers, runners run two loops to complete a full marathon according to international standards.
In this episode of Wake Up Palestine, Abdel Fattah Arrar, the spokesperson of the Palestine Marathon, tells us more about the marathon, its goals, and the preparations for 2022.