Gaza City - A local Palestinian who hopes to compete in the 2012 Olympics in London won the Gaza Strip's first-ever marathon Thursday.
Nader al-Masri took 2 hours 42 minutes and 47 seconds to complete the 'historic' race, which spanned the entire strip, from Beit Hanoun in the north, to Rafah on the border with Egypt, officials said.
The 31-year-old, himself from the town of Beit Hanoun, was the only Gazan to have participated in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing along with three other Palestinians from the West Bank, running the 5,000 metres.
Some 1,500 Palestinians were up before dawn to take part in the event, but only nine professional Gaza athletes ran the full 42.2 kilometres, while amateurs and school children ran either the half marathon or 10 kilometres.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) employee and event organizer, Gemma Connell from Australia, was the fastest woman, finishing in about 4 hours and 45 minutes.
She was one of just two international participants, the other being a French national who acts as the deputy director of UNRWA's Gaza operations. Both were first-time marathon runners.
UNRWA initiated the event to raise money for its Summer Games for Gaza school children. It said it had just exceeded its goal of 1 million dollars.
Spokesman Chris Gunness called the event, which he said passed off without incidents despite the heat, a 'roaring success.'
He noted al-Masri and Connell had set the stage and were now the first-ever world record holders for the first-ever Gaza marathon.
'This is a phenomenal day for Gaza and a phenomenal day for the UN family and for UNRWA,' he told the German Press Agency dpa.
'It's just a great day, a historic day,' he said.
'There is the London Marathon, the New York Marathon, the Berlin Marathon ... And now we have the Gaza Marathon.'
The organization plans to hold the event annually. 'We hope that we've established the Gaza Marathon, which will go on in perpetuity,' said Gunness.
Organizers said Gaza was pefect for a marathon, since the strip measures just over 42 kilometres from its northern to southern border.
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Palestinian Olympic Hopeful Wins First ever Gaza Marathon
Posted by LJansen at 7:21 AM