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Auburn's Flannery captures Palestine Half Marathon
For the Reporter
Auburn's Marissa Flannery, a Northwest University (Kirkland) student studying abroad in Jerusalem, was the first woman to finish the Palestine Half Marathon last week.
Flannery, a Middle East studies program student and junior cross country runner at NU, finished ahead of more than 150 female runners in the April 11 race through the streets of Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories.
Flannery's time of 1 hour, 42:14 minutes for the 13.1-mile course was more than a minute ahead of her closest competitor.
The race was only the second of its kind and was offered as part of a global initiative called Right to Movement, which promotes the health of Palestinian women, and guarantees women's right to participate.
The idea to organize a race in Bethlehem was originally conceived by the two Danish entrepreneurs in order to open the eyes of the world to the situation of the Palestinians and their limited freedom of movement.
A total of 3,200 runners from 39 countries participated in the 10-K, half-marathon and marathon.
"It was great being out there with other girls who are willing to work hard," Flannery said. "They don't care if they're going to get first, second, third or last, but they're going to go out there and achieve something. It's women showing that we are going to work hard to make that change and push ourselves and do whatever it takes to achieve equality."
Flannery was able to participate in the groundbreaking race during her semester studying the contemporary religion, culture and politics of the Middle East on the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities' Middle East Studies Program (MESP). Throughout the semester, MESP students become immersed with the people and places of Israel and Palestine. They study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a nonpartisan perspective, live with local families during a weeklong home-stay, journey to historical sites like Galilee, and participate in various service projects.
Flannery viewed this race as another opportunity to engage with the local community.
"A lot of the people that surrounded you were locals – the majority of the people handing you water, cheering you on, the policemen – were all locals and having them cheer you on and all join together over one cause ... it felt like I belonged there," she said.
The race, offered in the final weeks of Flannery's semester, is one of the many MESP activities that bring students closer to the people and cultures of the Middle East.
"I've learned that things are not always just black and white. Everyone is going to experience everything differently," Flanner said of her experience. "You have to encounter people on a one-on-one basis. You can't just initially count one as right or wrong. You have to go to that person and understand their experiences and understand what they feel and believe what they say they feel."