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The Boston Globe

Travel

Essay

Running a marathon in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan — What does one wear to run a marathon in a Muslim country? Since my children and I had moved here two months before to join my husband on a work assignment in this booming region, I had yet to even bare my knees while running. But 26.2 miles in 80-plus-degree temperatures seemed to warrant skimpy apparel no matter what local custom dictated.

When I spotted a woman wearing shorts, I gleefully pulled off my running pants. I had an ally, who turned out to be the country director for UN Women in Iraq, a petite Scottish woman named Frances. She had come up from Baghdad to run the Second Annual Erbil International Marathon “to be able to go for a long run outside,” since in Baghdad she can train only on a treadmill inside her walled compound.

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