by Fatima Abdul Karim
JERICHO, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- As the world observes the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Palestinian Authority's Higher Sports Council organized a national long-distance running race on Friday to shed light on the aspiration of the Palestinians to achieve independence.
The race of the 21-km half marathon and the 10-km mini-marathon was named "Moon Under the Sea", with over 3,000 participants from Palestine and several other European countries. They were both won by Palestinian athletes.
It took place in the city of Jericho, which is located in the east of the West Bank, known as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world and the only city from which Palestinians can travel to the outside world through the Israeli controlled border with neighboring Jordan, to draw attention to the restrictions on movement faced by Palestinians.
"On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we held this race, which is for half a marathon and 10K, with over 3,000 participating from all over the West Bank," said Itidal Abdelghani, director-general of the Palestine Marathon and also the race's organizer.
"We chose to organize the race in Jericho on Nov. 29, because it is Palestine's gate to the world," said Abdelghani.
Ahmad Halabiya, 26, a mechanical engineer who recently returned to Palestine after studying abroad, was warming up for the 10K race.
"I'm enjoying the positive atmosphere where all are gathered in agreement over one goal, which is running, because it has a lot of benefits for health, increases social bonds amongst Palestinians and for foreign visitors to our country, it helps them integrate into our society," he said.
Palestinians living in the West Bank can only travel outside of the country through one border crossing controlled by Israel towards Jordanian borders.
Some of the participants in the race came with their children and family members, to show appreciation of both the sport and the cause.
Sana Sharif, a 51-year-old woman from Hebron city, said that she joined the race because "it is a unique opportunity for women to practice sports in public places and increase their political and social role."
Meanwhile, Norwegian student of Arabic language Tor Knusten, 25, said that he learned about the race on Wednesday and decided to join with his Palestinian friends coming from the city of Nablus.
"It is a good opportunity to come here and especially in this area to show support to the Palestinian people and to show that internationals are here, taking care and aware of the situation," he said.
Young Palestinian runner Mohammad Al-As from Dheishah refugee camp in Bethlehem city, came in the first place of the 21 km race, finishing at 1 hour and 35 minutes.
The 20-year-old winner ran under the team of international medical charity Palestinian Children Relief Fund (PCRF) and set a new personal record. He said that he has been running for four years and took part in five marathons and races, nationally.
"I take part in every running activity each year, I try to reach the best positions as an achievement for myself, my refugee camp, my team and all that I stand for," he said. "So I came to run the moon under the sea 21K race and gave my best to reach first place," he said.
The race of "Moon Under the Sea" began as an annual national race three years ago and is increasingly attracting more participants from different parts of the world.