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Participants arrive at the finish line during a marathon in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on April 21, 2013. The event was the first international marathon with registered official results hosted by the Palestinian Authority, and its organisers hope to make it an annual event. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

Participants arrive at the finish line during a marathon in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on April 21, 2013. The event was the first international marathon with registered official results hosted by the Palestinian Authority, and its organisers hope to make it an annual event. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Palestine’s first-ever marathon took place today, Sunday, April 21, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Unable to plot a full 42-kilometer course through the city of Bethlehem that did not run into checkpoints or other obstacles, competitors in the full marathon ran two laps of a 21-kilometer track. The route began at the Church of the Nativity and passed by the West Bank barrier wall and two refugee camps before ending in a Bethlehem suburb.

Inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the event’s official name is the Right to Movement Palestine Marathon.

According to AFP, the race was won by Abdel Nasser Awajme, a runner from Jerico. A press conference held by the marathon’s organizers this afternoon announced that he had completed the 42-kilometer course in 3 hours, 9 minutes and 47 seconds. The winner of the women’s marathon, Palestinian Christine Gebler, had a race time of 03:36:37.

In addition to the full marathon, runners were also able to participate in a half marathon and 10k and 5k races. Organizers said that the shorter races were added to promote health among Palestinians, as well as to encourage more women to participate.

The UN’s Gaza Marathon, which was scheduled for April 10, was cancelled due to Hamas interference. The Islamist organization banned women from participating in that event, saying that women competing alongside men constituted “interference” in local traditions.

Women runners were among the approximately 500 participants in today’s event.

The event was organized by two Danish women, Signe Fischer and Lærke Hein, who have said that their goal in organizing the first international marathon in the embattled territory is to “tell a different story than the one of conflict and war.”

Participants held a candlelight vigil on Saturday evening in solidarity with the victims of the Boston Marathon attacks last weekend.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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