I'm running my fourth marathon at the end of this month, and I couldn't be more excited. I tell people this, and they look at me like I'm crazy. "Why would you ever want to run 26 miles?" they ask. I'll tell you why: Running is my saving grace on so many days. After a long day at work, I get antsy to throw on my shoes and hit the pavement for an hour or so. For those minutes, I don't have to worry about anything else in the world.
As for finishing a marathon, there are few things that cause so much pain and simultaneously, so much exhilaration. Though my experience with sports is limited to distance running and gymnastics, I would imagine that most sports provide this kind of pain and pleasure- and I can't imagine not being able to enjoy them.
In many places around the world, such as Afghanistan, women have not had opportunities to participate in competitive sports until very recently. When you watch the video below, you will notice some girls participating in a cricket camp. For many of the girls, this camp provided the first chance to pick up at bat and play ball like their male counterparts. In America, we take opportunities such as these for granted. Aside from a particular family's financial situation, there are no restrictions to prohibit women from playing any sport that interests them. In fact, my brother even had a girl on his football team during his junior year of high school. It is hard for me to imagine being raised in a culture where sports have not been considered "acceptable" for women and girls. Thankfully, that is changing in many countries where, historically, women have been treated as lesser beings than men.
Running allows me to momentarily escape from the daily stresses of an exhausting job. Other people find opportunities to challenge themselves and push the body beyond "normal" limits in sports. Sports such as cricket, though, seem especially important for children in Afghanistan and other countries that have been wrecked by war. Not only do sports instill certain values in children and young adults that could not be learned otherwise, but they allow kids a much-needed break from the suffering around them. The fact that women are now allowed to play could signify that things are beginning to look up in the Middle East.
(Check out this and other videos on My WebTV at http://webtvs.filmannex.com/MaryRachelFenrick.)