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Saturday May 7, 2011 10:55 AM (EST+7)
Gaza stages its first marathon

Read more: UNRWA, United Nations, marathon, sport, Gaza Strip, blockade, closure

RAMALLAH, May 7 (JMCC) - The United Nations sponsored Gaza's first marathon on Thursday in a bid to raise money for its controversial summer youth camps, reports The Guardian.

Donkey carts, exhaust fumes and potholes were just some of the obstacles for runners in the Gaza Strip's first marathon.

There were no roads closed, no security tape and no guides, as the route was very simple: start at the border of Israel and stop at the border with Egypt.

The race started at 6am local time on Thursday, three minutes after sunrise, and the temperature was already at 21C. The starting point was Beit Hanoun, in the north-east, from where the runners headed west towards the Mediterranean.

More than 1,500 people took part in the event, hosted by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which raised $1m (£600,000) for its annual summer camps. The camps are a source of tension between the UN and conservative sectors of Gazan society who object to the mixing of boy and girls, even before puberty.

More than 1,300 schoolchildren ran the marathon in relays of a kilometre at a time, while about 200 ran a half or quarter-marathon. Only nine adult participants ran the whole course – seven Gazans and two UN workers. The winner was Nader al-Masri, 31, from Beit Hanoun who ran in the 5,000 metres at the Beijing Olympics and hopes to run at the London Games in 2012. He clocked two hours and 42 minutes.







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