There are places in the world where women cannot run.

Families of Cochrane's École Notre-Dame des Vallées have participated in the international Secret 3k since its inception six years ago and drew its largest number of participants ever on Mar. 8.

Held annually on International Woman's Day, 72 students with the support of staff, parents, and Martin Parnell, completed the run/walk in frigid minus 12 degrees C weather with a gusting north wind.

In 2016, while filming the second ever “Marathon of Afghanistan,” Kate McKenzie and Cochrane's Martin Parnell, producers of the film, The Secret Marathon became inspired by the Afghan people and their ability to use the race as a catalyst for change which provided an opportunity for everyone regardless of gender, age or income to run. 

Upon returning to Canada, they discovered that many Canadians don’t always feel safe running at night or in their specific community. Many citizens in this country feel it is too uncomfortable or even dangerous to run, despite our relative safety. 

The pair wondered if it would be possible to use the same method used in Afghanistan to create a change globally. What if by hosting safe races we could re-imagine what it would be like to have safe places? Garnering support from Running Room and Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, the “Secret Marathon 3K” was born. 

Martin Parnell was at the school for yesterday's event and the day previous he was at Airdrie's Windsong Heights school. He went to Calgary for another event after visiting École Notre-Dame des Vallées.

secret runÉcole Notre-Dame des Vallées students head out on their 3k run/walk.

"I have been coming to this school every single year," says Parnell. "It's six years for this school, and they're the only school in the world that has done it every year, so it's a cool thing to have for this school."

The event is being held at schools across Canada and around the globe.

"We're here to support women and girls who want to run, and run without fear," he summarizes

In 2015 for the first ever, a marathon was held in Afghanistan, a marathon that both men and women were able to participate in, but they had to keep it a secret. Why? There are still places in the world where women are not allowed to run or walk outside. However, a community in Afghanistan courageously carved out a new way forward for the next generation. By creating safe races they helped to create a safe place. We want to help.

The Secret 3k is not a charity or nonprofit, but fees collected from participants are donated to groups that are advancing gender equality, access to sport, and education for women and girls in Afghanistan. Charitable partners supported include the Marathon of Afghanistan, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, and 261 Fearless. 

You can find plenty more details here.