May 3, 2016 | Play the Game
As the fourth annual Palestine Marathon was held this year, it highlighted again Palestinians’ lack of right to movement, as over 100 runners from Gaza were not allowed to participate. Still, its rapid growth and popularity among especially Palestinian women also tell a different story.
BETHLEHEM - When the sun rose over Bethlehem on April first, the streets were already buzzing with life. Families lined up along the sidewalks and police officers tried to direct a few confused drivers off the main roads. In the meantime, thousands of people in white t-shirts with ‘Right to Movement’ written over the chest flocked to the ancient Manger Square in front of one the world’s most famous Christian sites, the Church of Nativity. But though the holy city is often associated with its religious roots, it has for the past four years also become linked to one of the world’s most politically sensitive sporting events, the Palestine International Marathon.
Starting only four years ago with 650 runners, the annual race has grown significantly with a total of 4,300 runners registered this year including one thousand foreigners from 64 different countries. Despite the fact that running is yet not widely common in Palestine the vast majority –and an increasing number – of the runners were Palestinians. They had made the trip from all corners of the West Bank passing Israeli settlements and military checkpoints along the way to run for their own right to movement.