Destinations Marathons

The Inaugural Iran Marathon Opens To People All Over – With One Big Exception

Iran Marathon
Written by Charlie

The inaugural Iran Marathon is coming up soon and is open to people all over the world – but with on big exception (and it is not a nationality exception).

love marathons in interesting places! It gives a great ability to check out the place on the run and to have some great memories of unique places. I also love running inaugural marathons that I think have potential to be great. I mean, how great is it to say that you ran the inaugural race? You can only do it once!

The Inaugural Iran Marathon Opens To People All Over…

Iran Marathon

The inaugural Iran Marathon that ends here – at historic Persepolis!

That is why when I heard about this inaugural marathon in a place that I thought was a fantastic place on my visit, I got excited. I am talking about the inaugural Iran Marathon – on April 9, 2016 – that will take place in Iran and end at Persepolis. That is just such a cool location for a marathon and for it to be the first one makes it even more special.

However, there is one big exclusion for this marathon and it made me far less excited. I mean, it starts out nice, especially since Iran is making a big push to bring in more tourists with the sanctions removed. In big letters, they declare:

Iran Marathon

The whole first page sounds really great and inviting. I have to say, the timing does not work at all for me this time (April 9, 2016) but I was really wanting to do this one! I have already been there once and really enjoyed the trip so the chance to run the first marathon there – and finishing at ancient Persepolis – was just too much to handle.

With One Big Exception

But then we get to the exclusion on the register page. Here is what it says:

For the first time in history Iran opens its Persian gates to 400 marathon runners. This first limited edition is men only because of local regulations. Female friends and family are very welcome to join the ‘I run Iran’ social activities and tour program.

I understand that the company putting this even on is working within the regulations of the host city and country. I understand it is a huge effort to try and bring an event like this to a place that has never had this before (and where running is not even that big). I also get that they hope they will be able to change things over time as they work with the authorities. But is was certainly not as inviting as it makes it sound. This first marathon in Iran is only open to male runners – shutting out the chance for many others who love running and who are invited to tour but not to run because they are women.

Which brings me to my question for you – as a male runner, would you have a problem running this race knowing that it shuts women out of the marathon? Running is a great tool to bring people together – people from all nationalities and cultures. How many times do you run down the road and wave to someone that you have never seen before and will likely never see again – because that person is a runner as well and we share a camaraderie? And that is the part that I have a problem with (and this is entirely my opinion alone) – that people that we share this camaraderie with will be shut out from participating in this fantastic marathon event in one of the most fascinating historic places around.

Hopefully, they will truly open this even in following years to “people from all over the world” but for now, it is reserved for 400 men. Would you sign up to do it? If you are a female runner, would it bother you to have one of your male running friends sign-up to do this? I am honestly curious to see what people’s perspectives are on this and certainly not trying to start some political discussion so please keep that in mind. 🙂

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • That is a very interesting question. On the surface it seems very gender biased but then the question is why do we have separate tournaments for tennis, basketball and so on. Is everyone comfortable with every other sport.

    • Well said. Exactly what I was thinking. However, Iran is excluding women for another reason. If they have scheduled a separate women’s tournament, no problem. That’s not the case, unless I’m mistaken. As an American, you are at risk of incarceration and torture, lifting of sanctions mean nothing, IMO. They have and could hold you as political pawn. All they need to see is your US passport. Silly to go there, maybe in another decade or more. Sure is a beautiful country, I would love to go. My good friend born in Iran and 1/2 American (mother is from Colorado), escaped when he was 18. Now he’s 48 and said he would be a fool to return, would likely be arrested just for being part American. Nothing has changed there politically. Careful.

      • Very good points. I would hope for some change in the near future as the people I met (everyday people) were very kind and expressed how much they liked things about America.

  • Is the event, and entry to Iran open to those that practice any religion?
    If it is not, as I suspect, perhaps that is another concern to consider.

  • Hey Iran, join the 21st century, please. Women must be included in the event. So, I’m going to boycott the Persian Pasta dinner party and the race. I will be there when you realize that gender neutrality is a prerequisite to success in my world.

  • The title reads, “With One Big Exception”. There is a second BIG exception. From the IranIrun website, “Israelian passports or passports with Israelian stamps are not valid because of political reasons.”
    So as long as you’re a male and you’ve never been to Israel, you can run.

    • You are absolutely right and my apologies for missing that. I assumed that would be the case but had not seen it. Thank you and I will update.

    • You are absolutely right! I knew that had to be the case but missed it. I will update.
      Worth noting, the restriction against those who have been to Israel is only if the passport you are using has the stamps (they don’t even issue stamps anymore). I have been to Israel a dozen times and used a second US passport for my trip to Iran. No issues for me (except the continual biting of my tongue when I saw something that reminded me of something in Israel!)

  • I can only guess that the reason it’s male only is because of cultural reasons. At the same time, a lot of inaugural marathon races were male only. For years, the olympic marathon was only open to male runners until 1984, when the women’s race finally entered the Olympics in LA! Same thing for Boston Marathon… where it was an all-male race from 1897 until… the 60s?
    Anyway, during my visit to Iran, I spectated at a wrestling match there and it was interesting to see that only men could spectate. Women weren’t even allowed to watch live sports like boxing or wrestling! I was shocked but if it’s due to cultural or religious reasons, then I have to respect their laws/rules.
    I do hope in time they will open up this race to females but I have a strong feeling those female runners will most likely have to wear a burqini or something similar during the race. Hmm, I have a feeling given the current regime it would be impossible to ever have a marathon race with both women/men competing at the same time. However, if the day before or the day after they could have a women’s only race then maybe that might become reality.