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Inspired by Afghan women, Toronto's Secret Marathon celebrates 'right to be free'

One of the organizers, Kate McKenzie, made a documentary of the same name about the struggles women in Afghanistan face running. It will come out in fall 2018.

Kate McKenzie made a documentary on Afghan women who run marathons and is one of the organizers of &quotThe Secret Marathon 3K" in Canada.

Eduardo Lima / Metro

Kate McKenzie made a documentary on Afghan women who run marathons and is one of the organizers of "The Secret Marathon 3K" in Canada.

Hundreds of Canadian women are celebrating the eve of International Women's Day by following in the footsteps of their sisters in Afghanistan.

The first-ever "Secret Marathon," a three-kilometre trek, takes place this Wednesday in Toronto and nine other cities across the country. It's part of an effort to help women feel safe while walking or running in their communities, said organizer Kate McKenzie.

McKenzie travelled to Afghanistan in late 2016 to film The Secret Marathon, which will be released this fall. The documentary recognizes the courage of young women and girls who use marathons to unite for freedom, gender equality and safe spaces for all. Due to insecurity in the country, the marathon routes are kept secret to avoid potential attacks.

"Here in Canada I can put on my runners, get out of my door and not have to think about whether there's a landmine or if someone will throw rocks at me," said McKenzie.

But upon her return, as she shared the stories of brave Afghan women, McKenzie was surprised to discover many women in Canada don't always feel safe running, either. They fear the darkness. They're afraid of being cat-called. There may have been shootings in their communities.

"So I thought, if these women in Afghanistan can do it, why can't we do it here in Canada?" she said.

Wednesday's inaugural runs were organized in collaboration with the Running Room as well as the charity Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. More than 600 people across Canada have signed up, more than 100 of them in Toronto.

McKenzie said the run is only three kilometres long because they want to make it as inclusive as possible. Whether running, walking, pushing a stroller or walking a dog, everyone is welcome to the race, she said.

"This is about celebrating our right to be free and creating safe and inclusive spaces," she said.

If you go:

• The Toronto run starts at the Beaches Running Room (1977 Queen St. E.) at 6:30 p.m. Similar events will be held in Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Peterborough, Kingston and Ottawa.

• Sign-up information is available at

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