Meet the Only Afghan Woman to Run Afghanistan's First Official Marathon

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Completing a marathon requires an incredible amount of strength, stamina, and fortitude—especially if you’re a woman competing in Afghanistan’s first official major road race.

The Guardian recently profiled a 25-year-old female athlete, Zainab, who ran in her country’s pioneering international marathon earlier this month. The event was held in the mountainous central province of Bamiyan, and it drew 35 runners, along with 80 other individuals who ran a 10k. Although local schoolgirls participated in the shorter sporting contest, Zainab was the only Afghan female to participate in—and complete—the entire event.

Zainab spent two months training for the event by running laps around her parents’ backyard. When she finally hit the road, she faced myriad challenges—including gender-based harassment and accusations of cheating— along with more standard problems like altitude adjustments and chilly temperatures. However, she eventually reached the finish line alongside two other female runners from Belgium and Canada.

This isn’t Zainab’s first marathon. She was athletic all her life, and played basketball and participated in taekwondo clubs before working for Skateistan, an international skateboarding charity. However, an organization called Free to Run gave Zainab a grant last year to compete in an ultramarathon in China’s Gobi desert. Zainab caught the running bug, and now she's blazing trails—literally and figuratively—wherever she goes. 

Read a little more about Zainab’s inspiring life over at The Guardian, or watch their video of her pounding the pavement.

[h/t The Guardian]