Running for a Reason: From Afghanistan to the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
Would you race over 160km on foot through the Alps? No? Well, you probably wouldn't voluntarily move to Afghanistan to work in human rights either, but Stephanie Case says yes to those kinds of things.
Starting today Stephanie will begin the most difficult ultramarathon in the world - the Ultra-Trail du-Mont Blanc (UTMB). It covers approximately 168km (over 100 miles) with a total elevation gain of 9,600m. 2,300 people will begin the race, but not all of them will finish. According to the UTMB website, the race requires, "very good training, adapted equipment and a real capacity of personal autonomy." The first runners are expected to complete the course in just over twenty-hours. All runners will be cut off at a maximum time of forty-six hours.
Stephanie, who is an accomplished ultrarunner (you have to be to even be allowed to register for UTMB), isn't just doing this race for the love of the sport, though. She's running for a reason. Earlier this year Stephanie's work as a legal officer for the U.N. took her to Afghanistan. She has been living, and attempting to train, in Kabul. There Stephanie became involved with a civil rights organization, Women for Afghan Women (WAW). She will be running the race carrying their banner and has been raising money for the organization over the last couple months. The photo below is of Stephanie and Manizha, the Executive director of WAW.
As Stephanie explains on her race fundraising page:
While visiting WAW, I heard stories of girls as young as 11 years old who were given to older males by their familes as a way of satisfying a family debt. In these situations, physical and mental abuse is not uncommon. These young women often suffer for years before finding a way to escape or worse, before suffering injuries that require immediate medical attention. I heard about one girl who was accused by her inlaws of not taking good enough care of her older husband, and was eventually shot in the back by a shotgun. Luckily, WAW was there to ensure that she received proper medical care and that she had a place to go to upon her recovery.
And while she is running for a reason, Stephanie has found actually getting her running in while in Kabul has been challenging. Not able to run outside the government compound, she instead resorts to hours of treadmill work and endless loops around the inside of the compound walls. A weekend trip to Bamyan allowed her to run out in the open, but rewarded her with a case of dysentary she has not been able to shake.
Stephanie shared recently in an email:
Nerves are high, but I'm excited to see how far I can get...hopefully right to the finish line! It will be the toughest running challenge of my life - and not just because of the difficult training conditions here in Kabul. I am still recovering from dysentery (the little amoebas aren't going away!), but I'm hoping that I will continue to get better with each day leading up to the race start on Friday.
Stephanie starts running today and won't stop until Sunday. You can follow the race on the UTMB live broadcast and follow Stephanie's progress via GPS starting today. There will also be updates posted automatically to Stephanie's facebook.
If you would like to donate to Stephanie's fundraising page for WAW, follow this link and help her reach her $10,000 goal.
To get more of a feel for the extremes these ultrarunners will experience AND the amazing scenery they will pass through, watch this video: