Running to Earn the Street

As you may know, when I’m not running or working my ‘day’ job for the UN, I spend every waking moment (and a good portion of my sleeping time) on Free to Run, an organization I founded last year to provide sports opportunities for women and girls in areas of conflict. In June this year, we saw two Afghan women successfully complete a 250 km self-supported stage race across the Gobi desert. We are now training the second team from Afghanistan to compete in RacingThePlanet: Sri Lanka in February 2016. This post is taken from the Free to Run blog – it is written by Kubra, one of the three members of the Sri Lanka team.  This is her first blog about her training in Afghanistan, following her teammate Arzoo’s blog here. Both blog posts are so powerful that I had to repost them here. Meet Kubra, one of our Free to Runners in Afghanistan:

I start running to earn the street!

My name is Kubra. It is an Arabic word that means massive. I always wanted to achieve big things and do great things in my life. I like testing my strengths and taking on new challenges – running an ultra-marathon is one of them.

IMG_0566Out of nowhere, I was introduced to Stephanie early this year. She needed a female videographer who could travel with her to the north of Afghanistan to record Zainab and Nelofar (the first ultramarathon team from Afghanistan). From that moment, I decided to apply to be on the next team and aim for this amazing and challenging opportunity.

I was so inspired by hard work of Zainab and Nelofar that when I came back from filming them in the North, I decided to start running. I did running on a treadmill. After some times, I felt differently about running. I thought, why should I be limited just to a treadmill in a gym? Why not run on the streets and roads? Why not run outdoors and dedicate my soul and body to nature, to the air around me, and to the blue sky on top of my head? Hence, I decided to create a small group of girls who would join me to run on street. However, except one of my friends, nobody showed interest.  I did not lose hope: I wanted to run to earn the street. When the time came to apply to be on the Sri Lanka Ultramarathon Team with Free to Run, I did.

Then I heard I was accepted for this opportunity and a new chapter of my life began.

I tried my best to manage the training with my school studies and office work. It was much harder than I thought it would be. The training has gotten harder every day and I felt worried about the race. Arzoo, my other teammate, and I decided to run on street, but very early in the morning, as it is not crowed and people will not harass us. We preferred the darkness of night rather than to be harassed on the street during the day. I remember when we both ran on the street for the first time at night; it felt awesome. I thought I had broken all the barriers that have been around me all these years, and now I am free like a hungry tiger or lion who cannot wait to hunt their food. I can’t wait to reach to the end of the road.

The joy and hardships of training increased day by day, but I was getting 1914199_949284138490223_7224973334839602809_nstronger. One early morning as we both were running, I was beaten by a bicycle rider. He hit me with his hand while crossing me. I just turned my face and I have no idea why I did not say anything to him or why I did not have any reaction. After a while, I turned my face back and kept running faster and faster. Arzoo was trying to make me feel better, but I could not talk to her; I preferred to be silent and I know he felt my silence – it had a huge meaning. Like all the hardships of my life, these all will pass and I will come out of this challenges successfully.

Every night I dream of the finish line with my whole team members. I see a clear picture of myself with Arzoo holding the dearest flag of earth, my country’s flag with the nicest smiles we ever had in our faces. I dream this, but I believe this with conviction.

I believe Arzoo and I can go through the training perfectly well and finish the race happily. This race is one of those tests in my life that will lead me to discover my deep strengths and this is what I want from this race.

I run to earn the street and open it for my daughters and granddaughters.

Arzoo and Kubra face many challenges training in Afghanistan due to violence, insecurity and discrimination. Free to Run is working with the team to address these challenges and mitigate security risks. The safety of the team is paramount.

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