Robin Hood and solidarity

Ben Lewis reports on comrades running the Nottingham half-marathon in support of Workers Fund Iran

On Sunday September 30, six bright-eyed and bushy-tailed runners from Workers Fund Iran lined up with around 6,600 other competitors to take part in the Ikano Robin Hood half-marathon in Nottingham. The event was billed as a “fast and scenic route through the city” and “an ideal course for beginners and faster runners looking for a personal best”.

For the WFI team, the event was a key part of our training for the Florence marathon on November 25 (more on this below), as well as a way of publicising the charity and recruiting new runners. While some of us were wondering whether going for a team curry the night before was the optimal form of pre-race nutrition, all of our runners - old and new - did WFI proud.

Having previously crossed the finish line together at the Vienna marathon, Jamie Tedford and I ran separately this time around. In the end I beat him by a mere six seconds, with a time of 1 hour, 27 minutes and 46 seconds. (I can only explain this six-second victory by the fact that a bloke dressed as Robin Hood was closing down on me in the back straight, so I somehow managed a bit of a sprint to ensure that he did not pass!) Jamie and I finished, probably in a much worse state than in Vienna, 205th and 200th respectively.

Particular credit must go to two of our new runners, Natalya and Melissa. Having heard about the fund from their two brothers, who have both taken part in WFI solidarity cricket matches, they decided to join us in Nottingham. Sporting the swish WFI T-shirts, they finished 33rd and 42nd in the women’s race, clocking up seriously impressive times of 1:34.14 and 1:36.03.

Our two Iranian comrades, Nasrollah and Ali, did not exactly trouble the leaders, but their efforts to even get to the race perhaps embody the dedication involved in solidarity running. Ali, without doubt WFI’s best runner, has almost 60 marathons under his belt. Although 13 miles is little more than a stroll in the park for him, he came all the way from Italy to run and say hello to his WFI comrades in Britain.

Up until recently, Nasrollah has mainly concentrated on the organisational side of things for WFI. But of late he has subjected himself to a strict dietary regime in order to prepare for Florence. Chocolate and beer were the first casualties, he assures me. He has not run in a long time, so decided to mainly walk around Nottingham, battling through in a time of 3:40.26. He was joined over the line by his faithful comrade, Ali, who probably accumulated something close to 35 kilometres along the way. (He would run little stretches ahead of his co-runner, come back to join him and then set off again!)

Despite all the runners noting how hard the race was, we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and the seeds have been very much sown for Italy in November. The WFI team is starting to diversify - while most of our runners are Iranian exiles, there are several non-Iranians in Europe who have been recruited.

Quite frankly, the more people that can be attracted to WFI and its message, the better: the situation in Iran is now spiralling out of control. Iran’s currency, the rial, has fallen in value by 60% in just over a week, which will bring nothing but desperation and hardship for the Iranian people. If they get paid at all, wages can drop in value within the space of just a day. Basic foodstuffs and life necessities can shoot up in price in a very small time.

Regardless of what some of the more unhinged elements of the far left may think, these conditions are not exactly propitious to some kind of democratic and progressive change in Iran. When people are struggling to even put food on the table, then this does not bode well for the cause of human liberation.

This is where Workers Fund Iran steps in, raising much-needed funds to ensure that those suffering the most under the burden of International Monetary Fund ‘reforms’, sanctions and a brutal theocratic regime are not simply left to rot.

Obviously, for all the hard work and dedication of our small number of activists and runners, the funds that we raise through our sporting events, social meals and film/music nights are very limited. For the time being at least, we cannot compete with the slick machinery of charities like Macmillan or Unicef, let alone the funds of the Central Intelligence Agency and its heinous operations. But such basic solidarity work is also an act of great symbolic importance: there is an alternative, however embryonic, to both the imperialist war drive against Iran and the mullahs’ regime: working class solidarity.

And this is the message we will be taking to the streets of Florence, where we are expecting around 30 runners to fly the flag. With so many, and with your support, we can easily raise thousands of euros for Workers Fund Iran. But don’t wait to be asked to donate. Go to workersfund.org and transfer some cash. If you would like to take part, or just fancy a trip to Italy to cheer on our runners, then please get in touch via workersfundiran@gmail.com.