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Date : 4th November, 2019
Time : 55’ 24”
Number of runners (total to date) : 10 (6640)
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/4318903331
If you live in Afghanistan, or have visited recently, or have just see the media coverage, you’ll be aware that life there isn’t always easy.
And, since you already know that, I’m going to write about something different. I’m going to write about the positive experiences I had when I was there and, in particular, about running and the good it can do.
I’m fortunate that the tour company who looked after me in Kabul – Untamed Borders – is closely connected with the running scene in Afghanistan. So closely that my guide for the trip, Gul Hussain, was the founder of the Marathon of Afghanistan.*
Gul and Mahidi (our driver) picked me up at the airport and took me straight to Free to Run’s offices where they woke me up (overnight flight, no sleep) and introduced me to the Free to Run** team.
I’ve included more detail below but suffice it to say that Free to Run do fantastic work providing sporting opportunities and healthy living training to girls and women across Afghanistan.
Energised by their story, I talked to them briefly about a new concept for a global relay that a few of us are working on. (At a set local time, on a set day, everyone would run or exercise for up to hour. At the end of the hour the ‘virtual baton’ would pass to the countries in the next time zone creating a 24 hour Mexican wave of activity around the globe.*)
Buoyed by their enthusiasm, I headed off to my hotel to, in theory, catch up on my sleep. In practice, I spent many hours fighting a losing battle with jet lag..
…to be woken by my alarm after about three hours sleep. I got up groggily and suddenly there was blood everywhere. You’ve no idea how inconvenient a nose bleed (altitude induced ; Kabul sits at 1800 metres) is when you’re trying to pack in a hurry….
Gul and Mahidi whisked me off to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for my Afghan 10 km. I’m a UN kid (having lived in New York thanks to the UN ; Bangkok due to ECAFE ; and Geneva due to WHO) so it’s always something of an honour when I can run with UN.
The run had been organised by the local UN welfare team and we started with the group photo above and then about 10 of us set off on the run.
Not all of us did the full 10km but, for those who did, it involved three circuits of the compound. From which you’ll gather that the compound is fairly large. Which it needs to be house all the staff
and all the various in-country UN agencies including, I was excited to see, the World Health Organisation.
It was a great run in perfect weather with excellent company and we finished with a group plank where some interesting techniques were on display!
It just remains for me to say a huge thank you to everyone at UNAMA, particularly the welfare team who see running as an important part of the staff welfare mix, Free to Run and Untamed Borders for all their help, support and donations.
I’d love to see you all in London on 4th July 2020 for the UK, and final, leg of Run the World!
* The Marathon of Afghanistan takes place in Bamian province, a magical mountainous hidden valley suspended in the midst of the Hindu Kush in central Afghanistan. The astonishingly beautiful valley, a UNESCO world heritage site, is recognised as one of the safest provinces in the country and remains almost completely untouched by violence. The inaugural marathon took place in October 2015 and was the first international marathon to be run in Afghanistan. Around 120 runners took part in the marathon and associated 10-kilometer race, including Zainab who became the first Afghan woman in history to complete a marathon within her own country.
** Free to Run’s mission is to enable women and girls to safely and boldly engage in outdoor activity in conflict-affected regions. Through a combination of sports programs, life skills development, and community outreach, we help females to reclaim public space and change views about the roles they can (and should) play in a society. Our programs are designed to develop community leaders who can bring people together across cultural, ethnic and religious lines. We work to provide our participants with the tools to succeed because they can and will be a force for positive change.
***The objectives would be to raise awareness of the physical, mental and social health benefits of exercise and for participants across the world to come together in peace and unity.
If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11
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Facts & Stats
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
Afghanistan Occupying 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi), it is a mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest. Kabul is the capital and largest city. The population is 32 million, mostly composed of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks..
The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan began in the 18th century. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the “Great Game” between British India and the Russian Empire. Its border with British India, the Durand Line, was formed in 1893 but it is not recognized by the Afghan government and it has led to strained relations with Pakistan since the latter’s independence in 1947. Following the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919 the country was free of foreign influence, eventually becoming a monarchy under Amanullah Khan, until almost 50 years later when Zahir Shah was overthrown and a republic was established. In 1978, after a second coup Afghanistan first became a socialist state and then a Soviet protectorate. This evoked the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s against mujahideen rebels. By 1996 most of Afghanistan was captured by the Islamic fundamentalist group the Taliban, who ruled as a totalitarian regime for over five years. Following the 9/11 attacks, an intervention by the US and its allies forcibly removed the Taliban from power, and a new democratically-elected government was formed, but the Taliban still control a significant portion of the country.
Afghanistan is a unitary presidential Islamic republic. The country has high levels of terrorism, poverty, child malnutrition, and corruption. Afghanistan’s economy is the world’s 96th largest, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $72.9 billion by purchasing power parity; the country fares much worse in terms of per-capita GDP (PPP), ranking 169th out of 186 countries as of 2018.
World Bank Data
Here’s the latest World Bank data for Afghanistan – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
|GDP||$19.36 bn||2018||$4.06 bn||2002|
|Population||37.2 m||2018||20.8 m||2000|
|Primary school enrolment*||102 %||2017||21 %||2000|
|% below poverty line***||54.5 %||2016||33.7 %||2007|
|Life expectancy at birth||64.1 yrs||2017||55.8 yrs||2000|
|GNI per capita||$550||2018||$450||2009|
*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
** Metric tons per capita
***The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While much of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)
Greatest Sporting Nation Data
Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Afghanistan performed in the global sporting arena in 2018:
Global Cup – NA
Per Capita Cup – NA
The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive annual ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce an annual per capita ranking.