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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Saudi Arabia hosts first running race for women

Hundreds of women runners, many of them dressed in traditional clothing, took part in the 3-kilometre race in the eastern region of Al Ahsa on Saturday

The kingdom is embarking on a wide-ranging programme of social reforms that includes allowing women to drive from June. Here, Saudi women walk past a poster of King Salman during the Janadriyah Cultural Festival on the outskirts of Riyadh on February 12, 2018. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters
The kingdom is embarking on a wide-ranging programme of social reforms that includes allowing women to drive from June. Here, Saudi women walk past a poster of King Salman during the Janadriyah Cultural Festival on the outskirts of Riyadh on February 12, 2018. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters

Saudi Arabia has hosted its first running race for women, as a reform drive spearheaded by the crown prince seeks to boost female sports.

Hundreds of women runners, many of them dressed in traditional clothing, took part in the 3-kilometre race in the eastern region of Al Ahsa on Saturday.

"The aim of the race is to promote running and introduce the concept of sports for all, for a healthier way of life," the event's supervisor, Malek Al Mousa, was quoted as saying by Al Arabiya.

Saudi competitor Mizna Al Nassar came in first place, completing the race in 15 minutes. According to Al Arabiya, the 28-year-old graphic designer began running in 2014.

“I have a regimented food programme and training schedule supervised by a professional trainer," she said, according to the news site.

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Saturday's race came after Riyadh hosted its first international half-marathon in late February. That event prompted complaints from some Saudis on social media about the notable absence of women.

Sports authorities are set to organise another race for women in the Mecca on April 6, the pro-government Okaz newspaper reported.

It comes as the kingdom embarks on a wide-ranging programme of social reforms that includes allowing women to drive from June.

The kingdom's General Entertainment Authority also said last month it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018 – double the number of last year – and pump $64 billion in the sector over the coming decade.

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