Hundreds of women runners, many of them dressed in traditional Islamic attire, took part in the first marathon for women in Saudi Arabia on March 3. The event titled ‘Al-Ahsa Runs’ was said to be part of a modernisation drive for women in the conservative kingdom.
Mizna Al Nassar became the first woman to win the ‘historic marathon’. Speaking about her achievement, she told Gulfnews that she was looking forward to representing her country in the 2020 Olympic Games to take place in Tokyo.
According to a report published in Saudi news site Sabq, around 2,000 women had signed up for the event and almost 1,500 of them took part in the race.
Speaking about the first women’s marathon, supervisor of the event Malek al-Mousa told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya: “The aim of the marathon is to promote running and introduce the concept of sports for all, for a healthier way of life.”
Riyadh also hosted its first international half-marathon in late February. After the event, however, social networking sites had a number of posts criticising the absence of women from the event.
Notably, another marathon for women is likely to take place in the holy city of Mecca on April 6, as per reports in Okaz newspaper.
According to media reports, Saudi Arabia last month allowed women to apply to join their armed services, while the government’s General Directorate of Passports opened 140 jobs for women in the air traffic control at the Saudi airports in January. News site Middle East Monitor called it a historic move, which apparently drew 107,000 applicants. During the same month, the Kingdom allowed women to enter stadia to watch men’s football matches for the first time.