Women were not allowed to run in Iran’s first International Marathon last year, but that did nothing to stop Mahsa Torabi

By Stephanie Petit
December 22, 2017 03:38 PM
Leo Patrizi/Getty

Women were not allowed to run in Iran’s first International Marathon last year, but that did nothing to stop Mahsa Torabi.

The soft drink company employee arrived at the starting point for the race at 6 a.m. — long before anyone else was there — to dodge possible intervention by the police. Then she started running.

“When I started my run the weather was dark — I hadn’t any number and no one was at the start point,” Torabi, 44, told the Australian site Whimn. “I started my run and I ran and ran and took photos and it was amazing — I really enjoyed it. It was like an unknown journey and a search for discovery in an unknown world.”

She completed the 26-mile race in five and a half hours, officially becoming the first woman in Iran to ever publicly finish a marathon. But for her, it was about more than just proving something to herself.

“It was so important to me, so I tried to keep going with more energy to reach the final point with happiness and a smile,” she said. “When I reached to finish line I was so happy. I showed women can run in marathons and I showed women have strength. I really believe that nothing is impossible.”

Torabi told Whimn that she grew up with a love for the outdoors instilled by her father. Despite needing police permission and an escort to ride her bike in public in the past, she eventually decided to conquer Mount Damavand, the highest summit in Iran. After she accomplished that, she set her sights on completing a marathon.

Since achieving her marathon goal last April, Torabi has also completed a 250km ultra-marathon in the Iranian desert.

Although Torabi has started paving the way for Iranian women, there’s still a long way to go. While women were allowed to compete in this year’s marathon, their race took place on an indoor track in a stadium due to laws that require men and women to compete separately and forbid one gender from watching the other’s sporting events.