Documentary on first Afghan woman to run marathon shown in Kingston

The award-winning documentary film The Secret Marathon telling the story of Zainab, the first woman in Afghanistan to run a marathon, was shown Tuesday night at The Screening Room in Kingston. The film inspired the global run/walk event "The Secret 3K."

“Watching the film today was a completely different experience than watching it in 2020 since the Taliban takeover, now more than ever it’s so important we realize the struggles that Afghanistan women are facing,” says Tarra Williamson, national race director of The Secret 3K.

The Secret Marathon co-director Kate McKenzie says the filmmakers felt this was the time to explore a different perspective about Afghanistan with audiences. 

“Seeing the influx of new Afghan refugees to Canada, we felt now was the time to share with the world a different perspective about Afghanistan through our film. Oftentimes, the only things we hear about Afghanistan are stories of war, poverty and terrorism yet it is a beautiful country with resilient and hospitable people,” says McKenzie.

Williamson adds that this is not only happening in Afghanistan. 

“Here in Canada, it’s all over the news women who get killed just for running outside, it’s something that’s terrible and the Secret 3K tries to provide a safe space that’s accessible and promotes equality,” says Williamson.

The film also shows Canadian marathon runner Martin Parnell who, after suffering a brain clot, traveled to Afghanistan to run a marathon in support of Afghanistan women. Parnell is also one of the executive producers of the film.

“Well imagine if he lived in Afghanistan, he’d probably be dead. He’s inspired by those women and it’s inspiration all around,” says Williamson.

The theme of The Secret Marathon and The Secret 3K is global equity and supporting the right to run free.

“It means something different for everyone…the meaning of running free is completely different for me as a white woman in Canada than it would be for Zainab in Afghanistan,” says Williamson.

The Secret 3K is an annual event happening on the Wednesday of International Women’s Week. This year, it will be on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2023. According to Williamson, Kingston is one of the most attended marquee locations of The Secret 3K. Secret 3K raises money for various charities. This year, the charity partners are Women for Women in Afghanistan, The Afghan Sports Trust and 261 Fearless.

Listen to the full CFRC interview with Tarra Williamson below: