Community The American travel ban, revolt, and Canadians running Boston

    The American travel ban, revolt, and Canadians running Boston


    The thought came from deep within the cloud of confusion that now enveloped my brain as I ran: Soroush might be trying to kill me.

    I was a kilometre from the finish line of the 2017 Toronto Marathon, exhausted, sore, and losing speed. My friend, who moments before had been standing at the side of the road with the other spectators, was now on the course, a few metres ahead, turning back regularly to yell at me to run faster. My heart felt as though it might burst. As Soroush yelled, he urged me forward, toward him, with short sweeps of his hand.

    To my disbelief, I found a reserve of energy, and my stride quickened to a sprint. My friend jumped back to the sidelines before I approached the chute, and I crossed the finish line in under three hours—a big PB and a Boston qualifier. As I slowed to a stop and tried to get my breathing under control, I tried also to grasp the meaning of his gesture.

    Soroush Hatami and I had met just less than a year prior, as members of Marathon Dynamics, a running group in Toronto. Evenly matched, we kept pace with each other during the group’s Wednesday night speedwork sessions and on Sunday-morning long-runs too. Neither of us had ever run the Boston Marathon, and we made it our goal to do it together in 2018. But less than a month after Soroush qualified, at the 2016 Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, a result that soon threatened to spoil our Boston plans.

    Over the course of the following year, to make good on a campaign-trail promise, Trump attempted several times to ban citizens of select, primarily Muslim, countries from entering the United States. These controversial policies were immediately challenged in court, but one was ultimately allowed to remain in place while it was litigated. Among other things, this meant that Soroush—a permanent resident in Canada with an Iranian passport—would likely be turned back at the border on our way to the race in April.

    Amid this uncertainty, we submitted our times to the Boston Athletic Association, were registered for the race, and paid our entry fees. We began training. We began fundraising too, for Muslim Advocates and the International Refugee Assistance Project—two American organizations that have opposed the travel ban with ferocious legal action. We set a target of $1,000 US for every mile of the marathon—$26,200 in total. Soroush also applied to become a Canadian citizen, and his case is moving quickly. He’s passed his citizenship test and is now waiting to be invited to take his oath, after which he can apply for a passport. The marathon is still two months away.

    Our fundraising continues regardless. The money we collect will not help Soroush get to Boston, but our hope is that it will benefit others who have suffered far worse than he has because of the travel ban: U.S. residents who are afraid to leave the country, because they might not be allowed back in; families that have been broken apart; refugees unable to escape war.

    When I eventually caught my breath after Soroush had guided me down the home stretch of my race, I hobbled to the food tent and collected my thoughts. In a moment of clarity, I understood the lesson in what he had done for me—you don’t leave other people behind when they need your help.

    This is the link for more information.

    This is the link for donations.


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