Through her organization, Stephanie Case empowers women to run.
This is a part of our 15 Most Powerful Women in Running series. Who runs the world? Girls—obviously.
United Nations Human Rights Officer & President and Founder, Free to Run
Although Case is an accomplished ultrarunner, she says that her fondest race memory is not one of her finish-line victories. Last June, the human rights lawyer completed a 250K foot race in the Gobi Desert supporting two young women from Afghanistan. “In a country where women aren’t safe to walk outside alone, Nelofar and Zainab trained in the face of violence, insecurity and extreme discrimination,” says Case. “Seeing them overcome incredible physical and mental barriers during the race and get through that finish line together was one of the most emotional running experiences I have ever had.”
The two Afghan women ran as a part of a nonprofit Case founded in 2014. At the center of its mission, Free to Run “uses physical fitness and outdoor adventure as a means of empowerment and education in conflict-affected communities to overcome the harmful effects of gender, religious and ethnic discrimination.” Through Free to Run, Nelofar and Zainab became the first female team from their country ever to finish an ultra. With programs currently operating in Afghanistan and Sudan, Case hopes to continue to grow the organization’s work so that one day women everywhere will be able to tap into their power.
“Everyone deserves the chance to run, play and experience the outdoors.”
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Lorna Jane Clarkson
Christy Turlington Burns