The Right to Movement marathon is a non-political way to draw attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the denial of the right to travel freely. The non-profit global running community Right to Movement is dedicated to “telling a different story of Palestine,” named after article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I received this olive wood Bethlehem Marathon 2016 medal as one of 1,000 entrants who travelled from 50 countries. I self-funded the trip and marathon entry, in aid of Trócaires work in Palestine. The generosity of Cloughjordan people went towards the work Trócaire does with families impacted by the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The sense of solidarity and the social justice consciousness from Cloughjordan in supporting this activism was immense.
The Palestine Marathon is run in loops around Bethlehem. Starting at the Church of the Nativity it doubles back passing through two refugee camps and the Apartheid Wall. There is no route that can be run continuously before hitting a border or road block. It was the fourth annual Palestine Bethlehem Marathon with over 4,000 runners and walkers of the 5km, half and full marathon with 3,000 Palestinians joining, of all ages and abilities. I was the first Irish woman who completed the marathon, coming 18th out of the 39 women who completed the 26.3 miles. Hitting the wall for runners is the feared 20-mile mark, when your body begins to crumble with another 6.3 miles to complete.
That runners wall is nothing compared to how I first saw the Bethlehem Apartheid wall. This hits all who run, walk and live under its shadow. No amount of training prepares you for that endurance. But in my short, life changing visit, I felt privileged in discovering the heart and passion of Palestinians, and the ethos of ‘Sumud’, a “passive, steadfast perseverance and peaceful resistance. Running through refugee camps where the children joined me brought home how the denial of the simple act of movement can damage future generations – and how beholden we are to do whatever we can for their future.