Last year and in 2017 we had wonderful community based runs and a generous spirit pervading all aspects of the 24 hours. And during these runs we emphasised with really good effect how things we take for granted, like the right to movement and adequate living space, are not enjoyed by most Palestinians because of the siege of Gaza or occupation of the West Bank.
This year we want to extend this further to explore a dominant theme for Palestinians – separation: from home and homeland, from family and loved ones, from participating as a free person in civic life.
This year we would like to try to decrease this separation and consequent isolation all be it in a small way. This year we especially want to have an inclusive run. This means including all of our community locally as well as reaching to Palestinians 00s of miles away.
So we will be making contact with local groups not involved before and we want to encourage disabled people to take part too. We will be setting aside a couple of time slots where we will make a particular effort to ensure you have the support you need; and, if we can, we will help at other times too.
Why do we run?
to see a new view over the brow of the hill
to see inside ourselves, smell the wild air
know the trees and feel the space, the air holding us
for the joy at the end.
The people in Gaza have been running uphill for a long, long time
we need space
to collect ourselves
time runs as the people in Gaza strain for return
as a child I loved to make dens in the countryside with hay bales
or in the woods
as a child I loved to be a dog
as a child I loved to race my brothers
as a child I loved to read on my own
as a child I loved to wander free with friends
the children of Gaza have lost the right to wander
because we have to
because there is no choice
ideas will not be bound
2335 miles from Sheffield to Palestine
our thoughts cross in a second
we protest to protect children
to speak the truth, for freedom
to make a change
we run to support the people of Gaza
we run in this moment with the people of Palestine
action brings hope, hope creates change
we cheer for the runners
we cheer for freedom
we cheer til we’re hoarse
Arif Ali will be running the small park BIG RUN as a member of the big Steel City Striders team that will cover the whole 24 hours in hour slots. Below, Arif tells us about his approach to running, what it’s like to run in Ramadan and sends a message of support to our friends in Palestine.
Who are you? Please introduce yourself!
Hi, my name is Arif, I was born in London, and moved to Sheffield over 14 years ago, when I came for my first job in Sheffield. I enjoy IT, and my work is also in IT. And obviously I love running
Tell us about your running journey. Why did you start?
When I used to be in London several years ago, up until 2003, I used to run regularly around Wanstead Flats area. We used to do this on approx. twice a week and with the group of people I was running approx. 15 kilometres a week
When I moved to Sheffield in December 2003, first, I got lazy, and secondly, I blamed the hills for not running; so, I got really unfit and put on some weight.
As of January 2017, I re-started running, in the aim for raising monies for Cancer Research UK (CRUK), on the basis of how much the NHS and the Cancer support did for my mother.
This was a very slow process, and very tiresome. I joined the gym, and my first attempt only lasted about 10 mins doing about half a mile. However, I slowly progressed over a few months, and I found that I was able to do about 5K on the treadmill, and within that time I found out about parkrun; so, I decided to take that on in March. I’m proud to say, that my first parkrun time was 34:14.
After a small break of small injuries, I was back on it again in September, especially with my first ever 10K race coming up at the end of September
I joined the Steel City Striders (SCS) in September 2017 just before doing the Sheffield 10K. As it’s a big club you have a variety of people with newbies and some people with great experience. I learnt loads from the Facebook group, where I was given great encouragement, advice and support. Further from that, running regularly in the training runs, I have met some great people with great experiences. Just by running with these people, I have learnt loads, and have been able to apply the advice that they have given. This has helped me a lot over the past 6 months, with my running journey.
Why are you participating in the small park BIG RUN?
I am a runner, and also try to support campaigns where possible for Palestine. This event combined both factors together.
What do you hope it will achieve?
I would hope that it can raise further awareness of the issues in Gaza and the rest of Palestine.
What do you think you will get from participating in the small park BIG RUN.
I would hope to speak to people, and find real life stories on issues in Palestine as well as having some fun at the same time.
Do you have a message for our friends in Gaza?
Stay firm and resolute, our prayers are with you, and hopefully you are able to get freedom that you seek.
What has it been like training for this run during Ramadan?
This was my first year running in Ramadhan, and I was quite nervous and apprehensive. The main reason being was about hydration and tiredness after the runs. I had also signed up for a race, which was being staged 5 days after the start of Ramadhan too. I found a small post from a Muslim football coach who had a few great pointers, I picked on a few of these, and I believe this has helped overall. When I did my initial run I felt good and there were no adverse effects later in the day. You can read more about my experience of the race in my blog.
Overall after this experience, I will have managed to do more miles in the month of Ramadhan. With a week to go I have managed 106 miles, and my record in a Gregorian calendar month is 110 miles. I am expecting to beat that by about 10 miles if everything goes to plan.
So, all in all, it’s been a fantastic month when it’s come to running!
Anything else you’d like to say?
I hope we can raise more money than last year, and we can go beyond that. I hope this is an enjoyable event for everyone, and we can raise awareness of the issues in Palestine.
“It’s easy to be cynical about trying to change the world, but if I can take part, have fun and help promote and raise funds for such a good cause then it’s worth tiring myself out.”
Louise Haigh has very kindly agreed to open this year’s small park BIG RUN. She will also run the first half hour time slot – no mean feat for a super busy Member of Parliament. We asked her about her views on justice for Palestinians and what her thoughts are on the upcoming run – read what she said below.
What is the single most important thing that needs to be done to achieve justice in Palestine?
I was in Palestine in February this year and just a couple of weeks ago I secured a debate in Parliament on the humanitarian situation in Gaza. I don’t think anyone could say that there is one, single thing that will bring justice to the Palestinian people so in no particular order I think recognition, arms control and properly recognising trade with the illegal settlements as illegal are steps we can immediately take to set us on the road to justice but only a sovereign Palestinian state, I believe, will see justice delivered.
Why are you running?
Supporting the ambitions and life chances of young women and girls who are living in unimaginably tough circumstances is really important to me. We have so many freedoms and opportunities in this country compared to young people growing up in Palestine, and events like this can be a great way to help make life easier for those who don’t.
It’s easy to be cynical about trying to change the world but if I can take part, have fun and help promote and raise funds for such a good cause then it’s worth tiring myself out.
How did you enjoy the event last year and why?
Last year’s run took place right after the General Election – so by comparison it was fairly relaxing. The turnout and enthusiasm of the people there was really encouraging and I’m hoping the weather this summer can coax even more people out for the occasion.
How many laps will you do this time?
I can’t remember how many I did last year, it was only a couple of days after the most exhausting election campaign I’ve ever known so I walked around it pretty leisurely with Julie Pearn and chatted the whole way round. I’ll say four and hope I can bust expectations.
Who will run the fastest lap, you or Magid Magid?
I’ll do my best but I’d imagine it’ll be Magid – I’ve recently taken up boxing and football again so I’m built for strength rather than than speed!
“I’m honoured to be involved with and coach such a fantastic group of women, who have done so much for the community, and if by taking part in small park BIG RUN they can also help support other women in Palestine then that’s even better!” says Jay Baker, of AFC Unity.
Jay tells us more below about AFC Unity and why they are relishing the challenge of taking part in the small park BIG RUN in Meersbrook Park, Sheffield, on 16/17 June.
“AFC Unity is a social enterprise and one of the very few independent women’s football clubs around. It fields an 11-a-side first team playing in the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women’s County Football League.
“The club runs introductory sessions called Solidarity Soccer created for women wanting to get involved in the sport, and several community campaigns from being one of the very first football clubs to support food banks with matchday donation drives, to offering discounts for trade union members and promoting trade unionism, to maintaining a commitment to only using certified fairtrade footballs in training sessions and home games.
“AFC Unity was also a key host on the Sheffield stop of last year’s UK tour of the Diyar women’s football team from Bethlehem, with a tournament at the U-Mix Centre which raised awareness of the plight of Palestine not just in Sheffield, but amongst the AFC Unity players themselves, who were moved to try and do more for the Palestinian cause. [Diyar opened and then participated in small park BIG RUN 2017!, Ed]
“Taking part in small park BIG RUN is just one of the things AFC Unity has chosen to do, with several first team players relishing the challenge of running together in small park BIG RUN at the start of their pre-season schedule!
“AFC Unity co-founders Jay Baker and Jane Watkinson may not be doing much more than walking due to injuries, but are hoping AFC Unity players will continue to set the bar higher for football teams utilising the sport for positive social change.
“‘As a player myself,’ explains Jane, ‘I feel pride in playing for a team that extends its sense of teamwork and collectivism beyond the football pitch, and small park BIG RUN is a worthy and important part of that.’
“Adds Jay: ‘I’m honoured to be involved with and coach such a fantastic group of women, who have done so much for the community, and if by taking part in small park BIG RUN they can also help support other women in Palestine then that’s even better!'”
Thanks so much to AFC Unity for your support! For more information visit their website.
As you will know the really big idea is Justice for Palestinians
The big idea for the small park BIG RUN is about community. How can we best link with the community in Gaza, how can we link with the communities across Sheffield; can we run for 24 hours together – keeping at least two people on the course at all times.
The effect of this for people in Gaza is beyond what we might expect.
Any caring contact has a dramatic impact on moral and their spirit and their resilience. So, for a single day, one 24 hour period we are holding hands with them and recalling what it is to be in Gaza.
Listed below are when no one is down to run. Can you help?
Either log back into eventbrite and set your running times or email us, let us know when you would like to run and we will set that up
We are sure you will have heard about the horrendous, ongoing tragedy in Gaza where to date 61 unarmed protesters have been killed and another 2,771 injured by the hugely disproportionate aggression of the Israeli army – 1,360 of those injuries were from live ammunition.
These events affect those very same people the small park BIG RUN aims to help. No-one will have been left untouched and unharmed physically or mentally by this atrocity. The trauma centre we are supporting will at least provide respite and solace to some of those affected.
As if what happened isn’t bad enough, the resource-starved Palestinian health service is struggling to cope.
Hopefully you will be joining us on June 16/17 to hold hands with and extend love, sympathy and solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Palestine. Last year’s live broadcast link up with the Gazan children’s centres we support was a hugely emotional affair. Following the current events, this link up will be even more poignant this year.
Cafe Des Amis, a popular Palestinian cafe on Chesterfield Road, just round the corner from the park have said they will donate 10% of all takings over the run weekend to the causes the run is highlighting.
Some of you who have been in the cafe, will have noticed that there is a key hanging on the wall. This is a copy of the key the owner, Lena, still holds; it is for the family home that had to be left during the Nakba, 70 years ago.
So, when you are hungry over the run weekend, get some scram from notre amis at Cafe des Amis