It was freezing outside, this evening of March 6th. The weather forecast said it felt like minus 18 degrees. Many of us were huddled inside The Running Room, keeping warm while catching up with running mates, waiting until we were called outside to the start while the volunteers were taking registrations and handing out bibs to participants. We may have had different motivations for registering for this frigid 3k, but we were all there to try and make a difference and run or walk for equality.

The Secret Marathon 3K run/walk, which was held on the week of International Women’s Day, celebrates everyone’s right to be free to run. We were just a few of the women and men in Toronto and across Canada joining at multiple locations, or participating virtually, to follow the example set by the brave runners in Afghanistan and unite for freedom, gender equality and safe spaces for all. According to the creators and organizers of the event, thanks to all who participated The Secret Marathon 3K will allow the story of Afghan girls and women running for freedom to be shared across Canada through the film which is scheduled to be released Fall 2019. You can read more about the film and the 3k here.

“The goal of The Secret Marathon 3K is to celebrate our right to be free to run and walk in our community. Many women both here in Canada and in Afghanistan don’t feel safe to run at night or alone and we want to change that by bringing our community together to celebrate everyone’s right to be free to run or walk in their community.” Kate McKenzie, Race Director

Regardless of the chilly temperature, the mood was light and everyone was happy to get started. We headed outside to the start where we listened to details of the event and the film from Kate McKenzie and Hirra Farooqi, the Toronto Co-Race Directors. Then we were off. Just like last year, the wonderful volunteers were on hand to make sure we followed the correct route and as an added touch for the weather, they warned us to slow down when we were coming up on some icy bits of trail. We followed a scenic out and back route through the park and along the boardwalk and although it was a cold evening, the sky was clear and the view along the boardwalk was fantastic. I thought about how fortunate I was. I often run alone and although I am cautious, alert and ready to change my path if needed, I have been lucky enough to feel safe in my community and comfortable with the paths I run. I know this is not often the case for many.

“By participating you are helping us to share the story through film and by making a donation you are helping to further the work of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Together we can empower women and girls through education and sport.” Excerpt from the race registration information.

This event is wonderfully inclusive to runners and walkers of all speeds. Many of the participants were waiting at the finish to high-five all runners and walkers as we returned, including the race directors. Once everyone was back we were encouraged to head back in to The Running Room for refreshments and a prize draw. I personally made a beeline for the cinnamon chai tea that was being served, which really hit the spot after the frigid run.

Race Director Kate McKenzie and me, after the run

While I didn’t win a prize or set any new personal bests during the run, this event is one that I highly recommend and I know I will continue to return each year that it takes place. At the time I was writing this, The Secret Marathon 3k had reported to have had virtual runners in 17 countries across the world, and 16 host cities in Canada with 38 communities participating. The event raised an amazing $15,935 in donations. This is enough to sponsor 53 girls to pursue their education for a full year in Afghanistan, empowering women and girls through education. To me, that is definitely worth a little cold weather running.