3Ch – 2018/19 – Exploration #6 – Martin Parnell/Free To Run



In March, Martin Parnell came into our classroom to teach us about Free To Run.  Free To Run is an organization that helps women and girls who can’t play sports because men in their country won’t allow them to. Ryder wondered why women aren’t allowed to run marathons in some countries. Martin explained that part of their culture is that women and girls have to stay inside and they don’t go out of the home to work.

Free To Run operates in Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. It was started by Stephanie Case in 1990 in Afghanistan. Martin Parnell started working with Free To Run after he heard the story of Zainab, the first Afghani woman to train for and run a marathon.

“Free to Run’s mission is to use running, physical fitness, and outdoor adventure to empower and educate women and girls who have been affected by conflict. We support those living within conflict areas as well as those who have been forced to flee and live as refugees outside of their home countries.” ~ Free To Run

Martin told us about the Secret Marathon. We wondered why it is called the Secret Marathon. It was explained that the organizers don’t tell the date or the route so that they can protect the women who are running the marathon in Afghanistan. Martin has traveled to Afghanistan to support the women there who are running the race.

In 2016, after learning that there had been one woman participating in the marathon in 2015 against many obstacles, Martin went to Afghanistan to participate in the second marathon. Martin met a young woman named Kubra, who was running in the marathon. Kubra did not feel properly prepared to run the race. Throughout the race, Martin encouraged and supported the young woman. Sometimes they ran for 9 minutes and walked for one minute to save their energy. Martin ended up running across the finish line with Kubra within the time allowed for people to finish the race; 6 hours and 52 minutes. What a great feeling that must have been!

We enjoyed hearing about some stories about what life is like in Afghanistan. We heard about a mother and her 5 children who had been living in a cave for 12 years because their home had been destroyed during the war in the country. We learned about children who go to school in a cave where there are 20 students in one room. There is no way to change the temperature in the room, no washroom and no taps!

Martin shared the trailer to his new documentary, The Secret Marathon. The documentary was recently finished. “Our dream is to have the world premiere at a major film festival in the fall of 2019, followed by a distribution that will allow us to share this incredible story with the world in 2020.” ~ The Secret Marathon

You can watch the trailer for the documentary here. We hope you look forward to seeing the documentary as we do! The film has been selected for Cinefest and is scheduled to be shown in Sudbury, Ontario on September 22nd.

You can also watch Martin’s Ted Talks as well and hear his important message.

Thank you, Martin, for helping us learn about life in Afghanistan, helping women and girls gain the same rights as people have in Canada and how we can take action. We know that spreading the word about women’s rights is important and we can all do that!

Avnoor and Moosa chose to work with Martin and Free To Run for their Awakening Passions project. At our Exhibition evening, they chose to do a loonie/toonie drive to raise money for Free To Run as part of their action.


To learn more about Martin Parnell and Free To Run, visit the links below.

Mr. Parnell:

   Website: http://www.martinparnell.com/home/

    facebook @marathonquest250

    twitter  @MartinJParnell

Free To Run:

Website: http://www.freetorun.org/

facebook   https://www.facebook.com/FreeToRunNGO/

twitter https://twitter.com/FreeToRunNGO?lang=en