The Erbil Marathon is an international sporting event that aims to establish “love, peace, and non-violence in Iraq, and to inform the world that there is a strong community committed to peace and non-violence and justice,” according to official literature.
Ahmed Jamil, a member of the Supreme Committee for the Erbil Marathon, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The main purpose of this marathon is to carry the message to the world that Erbil is a city of peace, coexistence [and] harmony, a city that renounces violence in all its forms.”
The idea for the Erbil marathon dates back to 2009, when an Italian NGO, Sport Against Violence, proposed setting up a sporting event for peace in Iraqi cities in order to create a new outlook for the country.
“After that, Kurdish organizations such as Iraqi Kurdistan NGOs Network (IKNN) and Al-Masalla crystallized the idea and created an annual marathon in the Kurdish capital, Erbil,” said Jameel.
This year’s marathon is being organized by IKNN under the supervision of Abdulsattar Ismat, the general coordinator of the marathon, in cooperation with the Athletics Federation of Iraq and Kurdistan.
Jameel told Asharq Al-Awsat that organizers “have officially invited a number of politicians, and all the embassies, consulates and foreign representative in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, to attend the marathon.”
Jameel is optimistic about this year’s turnout: The marathon has attracted the interest of a number of international-standard athletes. “We are hoping for five runners from Kenya to return this year,” he said.
“Unfortunately, however, we were unable to invite many athletes back this year, because of our financial conditions we cannot afford to host them and offer monetary prizes. God willing, this will be different next year,” Jameel added.
Hosting events of this nature require significant financing, Jameel said: “A large part of the financing has come from the private sector, and in particular from some local and global companies (such as Samsung, Jibal Information Technology, Pepsi and others) and the rest has been funded by Erbil province.”
However, the Erbil Marathon is more than a competitive event; it aims to collect charitable and humanitarian donations and raise public awareness, Jameel explains.
The Erbil Marathon will not only host professional runners, but also sports fans, whether they are individuals or families or people with special needs from both genders, where they can participate individually or in groups representing non-governmental organizations, government ministries and youth clubs. The event allows competitors to compete in 4 kilometer, 10 kilometer, and full marathon (42.194 kilometer) races.
The Erbil International Marathon was inaugurated in 2011, with 1,600 athletes from all regions of Iraq and 29 countries across the world participating. The 2012 Erbil marathon hosted 5,000 participants from 50 different countries.