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Running for Apne Aap, From New York to New Delhi, by Sonia Taneja

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Held in cities around the world, marathon foot races have become ubiquitous, receiving widespread media attention and the involvement of thousands of runners. Races in Manila, San Francisco, and Barcelona have some of the highest records, boasting over 100,000 participants. In its 43rd year, the New York City Marathon had over 50,000 runners in 2013, while the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, a young race currently in its 9th year, is expected to have over 30,000 in 2013.

While marathons are an understandable calling for seasoned athletes, the “general population” has also demonstrated a strong commitment to running these races. News and public interest platforms are replete with stories like “Youngest teen runs marathons on every continent” and “First-timers win marathons in Savannah.” So where do we – the “first-timers” and the “normal people” so to speak – fit into these expressions of professional athleticism?

While physical challenge and goal-oriented training is the highlight for many, the charity component of marathons has also given people the agency to fight for causes they believe in, inspiring them to run alongside their professional counterparts. When the platform is a foot race, one does not have to be a wealthy donor, physician, or research professional to help fund cancer research; one does not have to be a teacher, social worker, or policy maker to contribute to an improved education system. Running in solidarity is also inherent in a marathon – running for a certain issue allows individuals from every walk of life to join together and be a part of a greater movement.

For this reason, Apne Aap Women Worldwide has registered as a participating NGO in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Almost one year after the brutal gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey that occurred on December 16th 2012, Apne Aap is running in solidarity against the exploitation of women across India.

We hope that the Apne Aap team, dressed in “Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex” gear, will inspire other marathon participants and supporters to join our fight against sexual slavery in India. Apne Aap Women Worldwide’s “Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex” campaign was initially bred to draw attention to the demand side of sexual trafficking – the traffickers, pimps, and purchasers of sex. Through this campaign, Apne Aap continues to advocate for the criminalization of these individuals – they are responsible for maintaining the “rape trade” and continue to exploit women and girls every day.

As this is the first year that Apne Aap is participating in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, the Apne Aap team will be comprised of our own “first timers” – our supporters in New Delhi that register with our NGO, the entire staff of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, and most importantly, the girl survivors associated with our community center in Dharampura.

The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon will take place on the morning of December 15th 2013 and will begin at the iconic Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. To run with our girls and staff or to support our cause, please contact us at apneaap.adhm@gmail.com. For more information about NGO participation at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, please visit http://www.concernindiafoundation.org/adhm/