Free To Run: Zainab Becomes Afghanistan’s First Woman To Complete A Marathon

Zainab Marathon of Afghanistan Getty Images

During the brutal era of Taliban rule, women were jailed for laughing too loudly, murdered for going to school and beaten for leaving the house alone.  Making a sound with their footsteps?  Illegal.

In October 2015, Zainab, 25, became Afghanistan’s first woman to complete a marathon.  She was recruited to run by Stephanie Case, founder of Free to Run.  Free to Run had been partnering with schools to build a network of women’s sports clubs.

Zainab braved threats of violence to finish the Marathon of Afghanistan in Bamiyan province.  She received national media attention and the Franco-German Afghan Woman of the Year award.

“When I applied for the ultramarathon, I had one goal: to open the way for other girls in Afghanistan – in other parts of society as well, but especially sports,” Zainab said. (

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