The Not the Palestine Marathon 2024 Race Report and Results

Race Date: Saturday 2nd March 2024
Race Report by: Katelyn McKeown

The Not the Palestine Marathon

I was booked to run the Palestine Marathon on 1st March 2024. Now I’m not saying everything is my fault, but I did book my flights on 5th October, and it quickly became apparent that I probably should have paid the extra £20 to be able to reschedule. I wanted to revisit Palestine after backpacking there in the early 2000’s. Last year I had the worst case of ‘FOMO’ I have ever experienced about a run when a group of friends known as ‘The Mangers’ travelled to Bethlehem for the Marathon Festival. A parallel solidarity half marathon in snowy Sheffield just whetted my appetite more to experience the real thing. Joining the organising team of Sheffield’s small park Big Run also motivated me to want to travel to Palestine and see the significant changes wrought over the almost quarter century since I was last there. I intended to raise funds with my Palestine Marathon, and I was not about to be put off because I was substituting Bethlehem for Rother Valley.

Noah’s Ark

From the outset I knew that some friends would want to support me on my effort – the Mangers and the Sheffield Solidarity crew for starters! I was unsure whether offering the event out more widely would yield much interest. In the days before the run I started to become concerned that there was, if anything, too much support! I confided in Manger-in-Chief, Jawad “I’ve got two Helens, two Jos, two Frans and two X Chris… It’s like Noah’s Ark”! The Frans were a particular coup; I received a message of support and a share of the event from a runner in Barnsley, Fran Hooper, and it turned out she is training for an Ironman and was particularly inspired by the event and wanted to join in! Fran Green is a Manger and a veteran of the Not the Cat Lane Canter Grand Prix, henceforth to be known as “other Fran”. 

It was a tricky day for the Helens with one suffering a flat tire on the way to the event, and another taking the hard decision to join me at Spa 1877 the following day instead of running. Striders Chair Helen Smith pulled it back for the team though, making a cameo appearance with Nicole Nield during the painful last mile. Impeccable planning meant that I had a Chris or a Jo with me throughout the duration, but never a Chris AND a Jo at the same time.

 The ‘Happy Leg’

Two laps of Rother Valley was the first order of the day. Starting at the gennel to the TPT at 8.30 and following the clockwise direction that Parkrun takes, we were able to avoid any crossover apart from overtaking the people at the back of the crowd. Starting out with me were Chris K, Lucy Mottram, Ruth, other Fran and we picked up Neil S and Nada on route. The miles ticked by with only a slight risk of being a bit too fast. I had decided in advance that to get through the distance I was going to have to go faster than my comfortable long run pace, but below full spewing-up-race pace and this what I managed to establish on the Happy Leg.

The Out Out

Reaching the TPT gennel on the second lap we were greeted by Jawad, Des Ryan and Lisi Briggs. Despite my strict rules posted on the Not the Cat Lane Canter page (no talking, no joking, no quizzing, no stopping) we stopped for a couple of nice pics and established that we were minus one Manger, Matt Richie and one Chris. We did the sensible thing “F*ck it, leave them”, but thankfully encountered them on the path to the TPT. 

Heading out towards the Chesterfield Canal we started to separate into groups. I was able to keep to my desired pace and wasn’t feeling too stressed or tired as the miles were sliding by. It was very puddley throughout and my fully saturated shoes might have started to bother me, but the conversation kept flowing and I was remembering to shovel down a gel every 4 miles to keep my energy up. I was just boring on about how cool my shoes were (Sauconey Speed 2’s – an absolute classic) when we almost took out a couple of cyclists. Ready to apologise and glide away (okay, bit of poetic licence) I took a closer look and realised it was Julie and Nigel Watts we had almost KO’d! Action pictures and words of encouragement spurred us on and we saw them again further up the canal which was a great morale booster.

A treat at Tapton

Tapton Lock heralded a marathon first for me, a trip to the shiny porcelain Nirvana of the café toilets. Emerging bright eyed and bushy tailed from this interlude, I realised that Des and Lisi had caught up with us and we were one big happy group for the home stretch to the turn around/hop off point. We received word that the Glory Leg had prematurely departed, apart from Tony who they had lost. This spurred us on to the concrete and railing adorned turning point, passing 75% of the glory leg on the way. We located Tony and had a few more strictly prohibited photo’s before Chris W, Des and Lisi went on their way and I started back with the four Mangers, other Fran, Jawad, Tony and Matt.

The Glory Leg

We eventually caught up with Cath and the two Jos, despite their best efforts in tanking off down the canal. I also tried to sabotage our progress by dropping my water – and apparently then running straight past it on the way back. Luckily Tony managed to retrieve my flask proving that it was a good job we found him after all. 

Although it is slightly down hill on the way back in, of course the miles were taking their toll and every small hump on the path felt like a mountain. I became aware that something untoward was going on in my right shoe so decided to offset this with a bit of Roxette on the headphones. The chatty miles turned into head down and grind it out miles, but the pace was still very consistent so that was pleasing.

This is the End

With five miles to go, other Fran switched up a gear and disappeared off into the distance. Everyone was working hard to get through and we were all trying to figure out the logistics of how and where this thing was going to finish. In the end some people split off towards cars and I did some running back and forth trying to get up to the correct mileage with Jo Rose encouraging me on. I eventually pulled up within a few meters of the car where my bag of warm stuff was waiting for me and I declared I was finished. Having stopped my watch, I later realised that I was a few metres short of a full marathon – just like the real Palestine marathon itself! Instead of feeling bad, I felt this had been the right thing to happen. My result was not my slowest marathon, having done 4.33 at Seville in 2020. I wanted to be close to 4.30 so yes, could not really have gone any better!

The marathon was won by other Fran in 4:20:28. Second and also last was Katelyn McKeown in 4:30:05. Here are the results of all the Striders who showed up to support on the day:

Name Distance KM Distance Miles
Katelyn McKeown 42.1 26.2
Lucy Mottram 32.2 20
Ruth Thomas 32.2 20
Neil Schofield 21.2 13.2
Nada Ross 19.9 12.4
Lisi Briggs 19 11.8
Jo Rose 17.4 10.8
Jo Gleig 16.8 10.4
Cath Ager 16 9.9
Chris Walker 15 9.3
Nicole Nield 5.3 3.3
Helen Smith 5.3 3.3

The rest of the results here:

Name Distance KM Distance Miles
Matt Richie 30.8 19.1
Jawad Qasrawi 30 18.6
Fran Hooper 25.75 16
Des Ryan 17.8 11
Tony Adamson 16 9.9
Chris Keen 10.3 6.4

Jawad was running in memory of his dad Hassan Qasrawi who was from Palestine and would have been 90 on the 2nd March; he died last year.  

Thank you to Julie and Nigel Watt who were bike support on the day.

Between us we ran over 415 KM which is over half the length of the 708km Israeli apartheid wall. 

For more information, please see small park BIG RUN for resources and events. If you would like to donate, please see The Big Sing For Palestine | Chuffed | Non-profit charity and social enterprise fundraising

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