With his chef whites on, a Palestinian flag in one hand and a three kilogram cooking pot in the other, Mohammed Alqadi set off on a 42 kilometre run on Sunday as part of the 37th London Marathon.
Members of the British royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, blasted the klaxon marking the start of the race, and Mohammed joined some 40,000 runners weaving through the streets of London to the cheers and chants of friends and supporters. Four hours and fourteen minutes later – and with a giddy rush of emotion – spectators welcomed Mohammed as he crossed the finish line.
As a native of Jenin, a small city in the occupied West Bank, Alqadi’s passion for running was never anything more than that.
In Palestine, sport enthusiasts are all too familiar with the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation. Apart from the lack of sport facilities, the Separation Wall, the checkpoints and the general restrictions on movement make it difficult for Palestinians to participate in international competitions.
It was not until Mohammed moved to France four years ago to enrol in a culinary school that he first thought he could in fact fulfil his love for running by training and competing in international events.
On your marks
“When I moved to France,” Mohammed told MEMO, “it became easy for me to participate in many marathons and competitions in France and in Europe.”
Mohammed’s first marathon was in March 2016 in Marce in the south of France. “I ran it carrying the Palestinian flag,” he said. “It was very tiring but it felt great, and by carrying the flag I sent a message that Palestine exists.”
Since I’m Palestinian and I live in Europe, my responsibility is to share awareness about my people and my country, and I think sport is a good way to do that.
“After that first marathon, I asked myself why not full marathons run across Europe,” he added, “and that was the beginning for me.”
While working as a full-time chef at a restaurant in Lyon, Mohammed still managed to run eight marathons in the past 13 months.
“Not only do I support charities when I run, it has also been an important way of sharing the Palestinians’ message that they are searching for their basic rights and they just want to live in peace and to have a good life like everyone else in the world.”
On Sunday, Mohammed ran for Sense, a national UK charity that supports people who are deafblind or have associated disabilities.
“I wanted to support a UK charity this time,” Mohammed said, adding that he appreciates the vital role international charities play in helping his people. “We Palestinians also care about people in need everywhere and we want to give back as much as we can, no matter how small.”
Guinness World Record Attempt
The 27-year-old chef was aiming to break the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon dressed as a chef while holding a three kilogram pot, and he wanted to do it for Palestine.
“I started training for this six months ago,” he told MEMO, “and the idea for breaking the record is to attract media attention and put Palestine under the spotlight.”
“I want to share with the world why I run with my Palestinian flag, what Palestinians want, how they live, and that was my goal for wanting to break the Guinness World Record.”
Halfway through the marathon, Mohammed was injured forcing him to slow down if he had any hopes of finishing the race. “I finished,” he continued, “but unfortunately, I didn’t break the record.”
I’m a little bit sad, but at the same time I know I did a good job because I raised the flag and many people came to support Palestine.
Mohammed says that he achieved one of his dreams by taking part in the UK’s most iconic running event and one of the world’s six most famous marathons, despite taking longer than anticipated to cross the finish line.
“I will not give up and I will come back to try again,” he added. “Sooner or later, I will break the record. I promise.”