I will be running with a black and white checkered scarf
By Azin Nezami
April 12, 2002
I just thought you might like to know that I will be running the 106th Boston
Marathon on Monday April 15th, starting at noon. If you live in the Boston area,
your support along the course would mean a world to me, my Bib number is 11424. you
can get online on race day at www.bostonmarathon.com
and check my progress live. So, here is my story:
I started running as a subtitute for the long hikes in the mountains around Tehran.
I missed the quiet of Tochal, the old mountaineers of Shirpala, the magnificence
of Damavand, the noisy crowd of Darakeh, and the serenity of Darabad. I missed opening
a window and facing this stunning wall that is the Alborz range. I missed climbing
to higher and higher elevations and seeing my dear Tehran covered under that everlasting
ceiling of smog.
Here I was, in Maryland, USA, where the highest "mountain" is a mere bump.
So, I started to run five years ago, first for fitness purposes I guess, to avoid
getting rusty. Substituting noon-o-paneer-o-hendooneh with McSomething and fries
wasn't doing my health a service either.
My runs were a mile or two around the block and an occasional
3-4 miler which made me so unbelievably proud of myself. A year or two later, I signed
up for a 5K race in my neighborhood, then another one, and another. And that was
it, I was hooked.
I had experienced the "runner's high" and it was great. In my first 8K
race three years ago, I was running side by side a woman in her 40s, trying hard
to keep up and beat her. At the end of the race, we started chatting and she told
me she was recovering from running the Boston Marathon a month before. I was awestruck.
A Marathon! A challenge fit for superhumans. So far, so splendid, so lonely.
But that passed, my running had become more serious over the years. Now my regular
runs were 6 miles in the middle of a humid summer day. I found a running mate, but
it didn't last. I ran in solitude and enjoyed the peace of it. It was a whim that
drove me to signing up for my first marathon.
I started reading about this training program and got all excited and next thing
was that I signed up to run. And I started training hard. Being a novice, I got dehydrated,
I got anemic, I screwed up my knee. But the knee heeled, the red blood cells got
their act together, and the lost water was replaced.
And then came the day of my first marathon, a week after my 30th birthday. It was
a small trail marathon. 300 something people, all on a flat trail with almost no
Towards the end, I was going on for miles without a single soul around me, I was
so tired everything in my body was screaming. A woman came by and said "Let's
pretend we're tied together and run," I tied myself to her for a mile, but had
to cut the tie and set her free. I couldn't keep up.
Finally, I saw a banner in the distance, FINISH! I passed with a smile on my face
and an explicable joy in my heart. 3:45:45. A volunteer hung a medal around my neck,
another one put a hand on my shoulder and gave me some water. My fiance wrapped my
coat around my body. I was numb and dazed and feeling wonderful.
I found a grassy patch and collapsed. Floating between life and death. I heard myself
asking Loay to take my shoes off, and then passed out. And now here I am. A year
and a half and 4 marathons later, preparing myself for the mother of all races, the
There will be more than 16,000 top runners from around
the world and then, me. But, there's more, something larger than me. It was only
when I received my confirmation that I realized I'm not "Azin, runner from Baltimore"
this time. I am "Azin, runner from the Islamic Republic of Iran".
Over my months and months of training, I have been thinking of the significance of
being a representative of my country. This is tough to explain, but I wanted my roots
be known to everybody. I thought of running wearing the colors of our flag, a green
cap, a white singlet and red shorts.
Then there was September 11th and this urge got stronger and changed in nature. Then
I became part of an "Axis of Evil' , and then came the violence in the Middle
East and the plight of the Palestinian people.
So, in three days, I will be running the world's oldest marathon. I feel so honored
to be part of this wonderful tradition. For 26.2 miles (42 km), I will be running
in a modest long sleeve light gray running shirt and matching long pants.
And no matter how many runners are out there, you can't miss me; I will be running
with hejab, a black and white checkered scarf, the same as my Palestinian brothers
and sisters, covering my hair and claiming strong and proud, who I am, where I'm
from, and what this day means to me.
Azin Nezami is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University.