First Tehran marathon: ‘Let’s build bridges, not walls’

Halfway through the Athens Classic Marathon in November 2003, Dutchman Sebastian Straten was about to collapse. The then 30-year-old runner had trained for five months for his first 42km race, yet his legs were giving up on him as he hit an uphill section of the course in the Greek capital.

“But I told myself, ‘I want to finish this’,” he said. “When I start something, I never like to give up. It doesn’t matter how hard it is. I think that every runner has that mentality.”

Straten clocked four hours and 30 minutes as he reached the finish line at Panathinaiko Stadium, the same venue as the 1896 and 2004 Olympic ceremonies.

Organising the first marathon in Tehran on April 7 is like running in Athens all over again and doing it every day, Straten told Al Jazeera.

“It is extremely challenging. I feel like I am constantly running to make sure that everything goes well.”

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