I’m currently on my way to Kashgar, China, where I will be competing in my fifth RacingThePlanet event… In just over 24 hours, I will be trading in my heavily guarded UN apartment in Kabul for an open tent in the Gobi desert.
Only the start of my race prep… will be a last minute scramble in Kashgar!
As I’ve been blogging about in my last couple of posts, training inside the compound is tough (to say the least). My longest run so far has been five hours long with a backpack, running in circles around parking lots and the helipad in the heat of the day, desperately trying to make the tiny, enclosed route at least marginally interesting. As you might expect, this is rather unusual behaviour for staff living and working inside the compound, and more than a few times I have been asked simply, “WHY??”
There are a million reasons why I should either stop running entirely, or at least reduce the hours I spend spinning around the compound. The heat and the monotony aside, the percentage of air-borne fecal matter is notoriously high (or so the rumours say). Whether it is poo-dust I’m breathing in or just run-of-the-mill dirt, well, I really don’t care. All I know is that after a run, no amount of visine can get rid of the redness in my eyes and I have adopted a permanent Kabul Kough after running more than a few Kompound Kilometers.
So, why am I continuing to do this? Well, I am not running for the sake of running… nor am I running for the love of running alone…. I am running to raise awareness and funds for an amazing organization I’ve become involved with in Afghanistan:
Starting on Sunday, I will be running a 250 km race in the Gobi desert in China to kick-off my fundraising efforts for WAW. For seven days, I will be running across the desert carrying all of my clothes, food, water, sleeping bag and supplies on my back. The days will be long and hot, and the nights are sure to be cold and painful. However, the challenges I will face in the desert will pale in comparison to the many obstacles that many women here in Afghanistan face on a daily basis.
Shortly after I arrived in Afghanistan, I met with some of the brave women who work for WAW, fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable. I also met with some of the women that WAW is supporting and I was inspired by their strength, courage and determination to overcome the atrocities they have experienced in the past. I met an 18 year old girl named Mumtaz who survived an acid attack from a man whom she refused to marry; 17 year old Gul Sika who was shot by her husband and is still recovering from the physical and mental wounds; and 15 year old Sahar Gul, whom you might remember hearing about in the news at the end of last year. Sahar Gul, a child bride, was locked in a basement and tortured by her in-laws and husband in an attempt to force her into prostitution. When she was rescued, WAW was there to provide her with the support she desperately needed. Now, Sahar Gul is interested in studying; Mumtaz wants to learn English and become a translator; and Gul Sika is looking forward to returning to her family and discovering what it is like to attend school. You can read a NY Times piece about the girls here.
With the incredibly brave and tenacious programme manager at WAW
WAW provides, among other things, shelters for vulnerable women – those who have been victims of domestic violence, been abandoned by their families, or experienced other devastating abuses. WAW gives them with a safe place to stay, offers classes and training to improve their skills, and provides them with access to counselors and lawyers to assist with their particular cases. This is just one of the many ways in which WAW works to improve the lives of women in Afghanistan.
I would be grateful if you would have a look at my fundraising page for WAW and consider making a donation to the organization: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/stephanie-case-2/utmb. Any amount, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated.
My adventure in the Gobi desert is only the start! As I’ve mentioned on this blog, in August, I will be running 100 miles non-stop through the Italian, French and Swiss Alps for WAW: Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. And my newest exciting piece of news is that in September, I will be running another 250 km self-supported race through the Grand Canyon in North America’s first race of this kind! Go here to find out more about the Grand to Grand Ultra! (more on that later)
With any luck, each additional mile I run will help generate a bit more support for this incredible organization.
Messages of support during the race are also very much appreciated!! I need your help!
*Should you wish to follow the race, please visit www.4deserts.com/gobimarch.
*To email me during the race, follow this link and click on my name from the drop down menu: http://www.4deserts.com/gobimarch/email
*To receive breaking news updates, go here: http://www.4deserts.com/gobimarch/breakingnews