An “indoor track” has been introduced for female participants in Tehran’s “international marathon”, to be held later today.
With 600 local and 160 international participants – including 156 Iranian and 50 foreigner women among them, TehRUN has been tapped as an opportunity to “build bridges, breaking barriers”.
Where the event organisers hope to provide a platform to sports, gender inequality remains a concern.
Three weeks prior to the event, female participants were informed in an email that they would not be allowed to participate. The decision, however, was taken back on Wednesday when the organisers revealed the women will have a separate “indoor track” – a 42 kilo metre route inside a stadium.
The Dutch organiser behind the race, Sebastian Straten expressed his dismay over the course of action managers had to take. “Personally I do not agree with that and we are trying to find other ways to make steps forward for female running in Iran.”
The women race course will have the same gender rooting for them inside the stadium since Iranian religious authorities forbid men and women from watching the opposite gender playing sports. According to the race’s official website, they are required by law to “dress modestly to respect local customs and religion” i.e. wear long-sleeved t-shirts covering hips, with headscarves or bandanas to cover the hair.
For Iranians though, it can still be counted as a victory considering women were not allowed to take part in the marathon last year – where two women, Masoumah Torabi and Elham Manoocheri made headlines when they ran separately from men to register a protest. The race’s official website recognised them as participants.
Following the events of last year, this year’s move was praised by Iranian non-profit organisation, FreeToRun, in a Facebook post:
While there are no professional runners taking part in the race this year, the head of Iran’s track and field federation, Majid Keyhani hoped they would enter the Persian Run scheduled to be held soon.
This article originally appeared on the Independent.