Having planned for a group of us from Georgeham to run the Gaza Marathon on April 10, we were shocked to hear that the UN had been forced to cancel the event, along with the 800 other runners who were training for the marathon.
Given Gaza’s location and history, we all harboured fears that the race might not have gone ahead, but none of us were prepared for the actual reason. When Hamas (Gaza’s governing authority) insisted that nearly 400 women competitors wouldn’t be allowed to run alongside men - as they had done the previous two years - the plug was pulled by the reluctant organisers.
As disappointed as we all were by what’s happened, we were equally determined that something positive would come from it. More importantly, we were determined that our fundraising for the UN’s summer camps for the children of Gaza should continue. If anything, Hamas’ decision has only made us more aware of how crucial those summer camps are.
So with the help of the Amos Trust, the human rights organisation with whom we got our original places for Gaza, we have managed to get places in the Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem.
Planned for just 11 days after Gaza was scheduled, it even gives those of us who need it (naming no names) an extra week of much-needed preparation for what promised to be a slightly hilly, rather warm 26 miles. It should be an incredible few days that helps the UN do something even more incredible in Gaza this summer.
We are seven friends from a village in north devon who will each be running the Gaza Marathon in April to raise money to help Palestinian children.
The Baggy Breakfast Club was formed by a few of us who love running around places like our local headland Baggy Point each weekend. And if there's the possibility of a bacon butty afterwards, then so much the better. Hence the name.
Each of us is lucky to live and run in such a beautiful place. We've all got kids who will get to grow up next to the beach and the moors.
This marathon is a chance to help children a few thousand miles away who aren't as fortunate. In the densely-populated Gaza Strip, there is little time or space for children to have the kind of fun and freedom that our kids (rightly) take for granted.
More than half of the 1.7 million people of Gaza are under the age of 18. For these 800,000 boys and girls, their daily life is characterised by conflict, poverty, little hope of change and almost no freedom of movement.
Since the summer of 2004 though, UNRWA's Summer Games have provided a unique opportunity for 250,000 children in Gaza.
This summer camp gives them an experience that should be typical for all boys and girls on holiday: a safe place to play, to make friends, to learn, and to express themselves freely. To be children.
Through art, theatre, sports, beach games, and music, children have participated in camps across the Gaza Strip at almost 300 locations: in schools, on beaches, in orphanages, and in hospitals.
We want to raise as much money as we can so that these weeks can happen again this year for as many Gaza children as possible.
So we'll be running the length of the Strip on April 10 with the Amos Trust to raise money for UNRWA.
Along the marathon route from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah in the south, more than 1,000 children will run relays with us, while we try desperately to keep up with them.
We know how many requests go around for fundraising so if this feels like something you are able to support, we would be hugely grateful.