AP

Women to run apart from men in Tehran’s first marathon

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Two days before what has been described as Tehran’s first international marathon, a top Iranian sports official cannot confirm whether Americans will participate and says women will be forced to run separately from men.

The website for Friday’s “TehRUN” race lists 28 Americans among the registered runners, along with participants from more than 40 countries, including Britain and Canada. It describes the run as an opportunity for “building bridges, breaking barriers.”

Majid Keyhani, the head of Iran’s track and field federation, told reporters Wednesday that runners of all nationalities are welcome to participate in the event. But he would not confirm which countries would be represented or if visas had been issued to all participants.

“We have sent all runner names to Iran’s Foreign Ministry for issuing visas,” he said, cautioning that the process could “take time.”

At least 160 foreign runners, including 50 women, have signed up. But Keyhani said only the men will be allowed to race in the streets of Tehran — the women will have to race separately, inside the Azadi sports complex.

More than 600 Iranian runners, including 156 women, are expected to participate.

The race is being organized in large part by Dutch entrepreneur Sebastiaan Straten and his travel agency, Iran Silk Road. He expects Americans to be able to participate and said most of the registered runners have received visas.

“TehRUN is a run for international friendship and to promote street running to a large, young Iranian population,” he said by email. “Iranians are one of the most hospitable people in the world and I am sure the crowd will show that on Friday to the runners.”

Still, he opposes the decision to segregate women from men for the race.

“Personally I do not agree with that and we are trying to find other ways to make step(s forward) for female running in Iran,” he wrote.

Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has required women to wear the Islamic headscarf and to only show their face, hands and feet in public. They are typically not allowed to participate in sporting events outside of enclosed facilities, ensuring they are not seen by men.

The race website tells women they are required to wear a headscarf or sports bandana that covers their hair. It also encourages them to wear long-sleeve t-shirts that cover their hips and to avoid shorts or skirts.

“In general dress modestly to respect local customs and religion,” it reads.

Any spectators cheering the female runners Friday will certainly be women. Female Iranian athletes have missed many international competitions since the revolution because clerical authorities disapprove of them being viewed by male spectators.

Female sports fans in turn are traditionally barred from attending male-only sporting events in Iran on similar grounds, but many women are pushing to change that practice.

Keyhani made a point of referring to the event as a “Persian Run” rather than a marathon, even though the length of the longest race is 42 kilometers (26 miles) — roughly the length of an official marathon.

The course takes runners from the Azadi soccer stadium through the normally traffic-clogged streets of western parts of the Iranian capital, past the University of Tehran to Ferdowsi Square, a popular spot for the city’s moneychangers.

There are also shorter men’s courses of 10 and 21 kilometers (6 and 13 miles).

No professional runners are expected to participate this year, Keyhani said, but he expressed hope they would in the future.

The event follows a similar run a year ago near the Iranian city of Shiraz, south of Tehran. That race drew more than 70 international participants, none of them American.

No women were allowed to officially take part in last year’s race. But two Iranian women, Masoumeh Torabi and Elham Manoocheri, nonetheless ran the race separately from the men in protest and are recognized on the race organizers’ website.

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Paralympian Blake Leeper advances in 400m at USATF Outdoors (video)

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Paralympic medalist Blake Leeper, believed to be the first double amputee to race at a USATF Outdoor Championships, advanced out of the 400m heats in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Leeper ran 45.52, third in his heat, to grab the 16th and last spot in the 400m semifinals Friday (10:34 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

It marked a personal best by .58 of a second for Leeper, who was racing one day after his ban for testing positive for cocaine in 2015 ended.

“I wanted to advance, but if I don’t I have won already,” Leeper said before he learned he made the semis, according to USA Track and Field. “Just being here and showing everybody what you can truly do with a disability.”

Leeper ran faster than Olympians David VerburgKyle ClemonsArman Hall and Manteo Mitchell, who were all eliminated.

It’s likely that the top five or six in Saturday’s final will make the 4x400m team for the world championships in London in August.

USATF OUTDOORS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

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Alysia Montano races pregnant again at USATF Outdoor Championships (video)

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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño raced five months pregnant in 100-degree heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships (Summer Champions Series) in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Montaño, who raced eight months pregnant at the 2014 USATF Outdoors also in Sacramento, finished last in her 800m first-round heat in 2:21.40. She was 10 seconds faster than her time three years ago.

“People were like, oh, you’re going to run faster than you did last time because you’re less pregnant,” Montaño told media in Sacramento, standing next to 2-year-old daughter Linnea. “I was like, I’m still pregnant.”

Athletes are looking for top-three finishes to qualify for the world championships in London in August. Finals are later this weekend.

USATF OUTDOORS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

In a Wonder Woman top, Montaño gritted her teeth on the final straightaway and raised her arms crossing the finish line.

“[In 2014] women let me know that my journey and my story had inspired them in so many different ways,” Montaño said. “I think there’s something about coming out to any venue, not really expecting to win, but just going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it. And that’s the most beautiful part for me, being a track and field athlete, the platform that I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative of people who don’t have the same platform, don’t have the same voice that I do.

“I represent so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. Not everybody has the same platform that I do. I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”

Montaño said she was inspired when she learned Gal Gadot, who played the title role in the movie “Wonder Woman,” filmed half of it while five months pregnant.

“I saw Wonder Woman, and I was like, I for sure am signing up for USA Nationals,” Montaño said. “I already was thinking I was going to do it.”

Montaño said it wasn’t easier or harder racing Thursday versus three years ago, when she had a bigger baby bump.

“The weird part about five months is you’re still growing and like shifting a lot,” she said. “So every week you have to readjust.”

Linnea has seen enough photos of her mom’s famous race in 2014 to know what was going on.

“I go, mom is going to run with your sibling in her belly,” Montaño recalled. “I did that with you, too. And [Linnea] was like, ‘Yeah, it was sticking out!'”

Montaño raced outdoors for the first time since falling in the Olympic Trials 800m final on July 4. Montaño had won the previous Olympic Trials (and finished fourth in London) and the 2015 U.S. title coming back from pregnancy.

She ran without an apparel sponsor Thursday, frustrated that Asics waited until December to say they were not interested in retaining her for 2017. Montaño said that left her no time to try and find a different sponsor, even though she was already planning to have her second child.

“You need to let an athlete know in September, October,” she said. “I’ve been calling [Asics] since September to be like, hey, I didn’t make the Olympic team, I’m 30, I’m going to have another baby.”

In the men’s 800m Thursday, two-time Olympian and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds was eliminated, 32nd-fastest of 33 runners in the first round.

Symmonds, in his final season, said he has one more race left — the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

MORE: Montaño finds little joy after Russian stripped of medals

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