‘11km done and 15km to go, I got this!’

That’s what I keep telling myself, but I start making my way to the park and my legs feel stiff and my body feels heavy. At least the sun is shining.

The dilemma: Rip it off like a band-aid and go for the full 15km today? Or commit to two more runs and prolong the agony? ‘Makes sense to complete the run in 2.6 days, it’s the 2.6 Challenge after all,’ I think. But a little voice inside is telling me ‘Go big or go home’.

Still undecided, I embark on my classic running route: a 5km infinity shaped path through Regent’s Park. First, I run along the lake and then I cross the bridge to reach the endless green fields. There are many people exercising – much fewer than usual of course – but still a good distraction. I watch this guy nailing his kick-ups and think of how I’ll never beat my personal best of 5. And by that, I mean me chasing the ball as I uncontrollably kick it further away from me each time.

I keep going and I cross paths with Arabella and Costi, who are also completing their 2.6 challenge to rollerblade for 26km. I start thinking of all the other exciting challenges undertaken by our supporters. I think of Anita, doing headstand variations for 2:06 minutes and Eirini doing 26 sun salutations daily for a week: the perfect marriage of strength and balance. Mary also comes to mind, and her determination to learn how to solve the Rubik’s cube in 2.6 days and in under 2.6 minutes, and Natalia, doing the hula-hoop for 26 minutes straight. Impressive, right? Don’t even get me started on Amir’s challenge of doing 26 push-ups daily for 26 days.

Amir is a supporter, but also a PoC beneficiary. He is a human rights activist who was persecuted for advocating for Ahwazi rights in Iran and was forced to flee to the UK. Amir is an impressive young man, who really stands out for his genuine kindness and ethos. I remember our conversation the first time we met. Very calm, articulate, and always with a smile on his face, he talked about the difficulties he had to overcome when he first moved to the UK; he was alone, didn’t speak a word of English and had to cope with the emotional trauma of the events that had taken place in Iran. But what Amir really focused on was his life-long dream of becoming a doctor.

He started learning English, took his A levels, and gradually he was able to move on and rebuild his life in the UK. He met his wife, completed his BSc in Clinical Sciences and MSc in Cancer Pharmacology, and in the meantime worked as lab technician in various hospitals. With the help of PoC’s bursary scheme, he is now undertaking a Physical Associate Course to qualify as a PA, and is just a step away from achieving his goal of working for the NHS.

Amir’s story brings a smile to my face. His courage and fortitude fuel me with the strength I need to enter that infinity-shaped path for the third time. Running 15km now seems much easier compared to the challenges Amir had to overcome. I feel privileged to be able to play my small part and give back to those brave people who have fought for their and our rights. This is why I’m running for Prisoners of Conscience. Every little could make a big difference to the lives of human rights defenders like Amir.

I see the finish line – a bridge in my case. I start sprinting for the last few meters and done! Embracing the runner’s high and glad that my challenge is over, I find a nice spot by the lake to stretch it out and I’ve got this little fellow keeping me company.

If you would like to support any of our 2.6 Challenges, you can follow the links below. Money raised will contribute to the immediate relief, resettlement and requalification of prisoners of conscience at their time of greatest need.

Amir’s page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/amirs-26-challenge

Anita’s page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/anitas-26-challenge

Eirini’s page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/irinis-26-challenge

Mary’s page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/marys-26-challenge2020

Natalia’s page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/natalia-s-2-6-hula-challenge?fbclid=IwAR1DF2DP_K-G-1akfF2lQh4KDKReYKfbO5NJnUBtWDkYd-si4ZK81kkhvGY

Arabella and Costi’s page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/arabellas-and-costis-26-challenge-rollerblade-26km-in-26-days

Joanna’s page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/joannas-26-challenge2020

With much love and thanks to everyone for supporting PoC and our 2.6 challenges, and with many special thanks to all our fabulous supporters who joined in with their own 2.6 challenges!

 Joanna