Gaza Strip holds first marathon

Hundreds of runners take part in Gaza marathon

The Gaza Strip has held its first-ever marathon, with the 42km (26 miles) course running the full length of the small coastal territory.

Nine runners went the full distance, with more than 1,000 schoolchildren joining for shorter stretches.

Palestinian runner Nader el Masri, who hopes to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics, finished first in two hours, 42 minutes, 47 seconds.

The marathon raised $1m (£600,000) for a summer camp for Gaza children.

The race was the brainchild of Australian Gemma Connell, who works for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The agency helps Palestinian refugees.

She was one of two foreigners and seven Gazans who ran the full marathon, between Beit Hanoun in the north of the territory to Rafah on the border with Egypt.

"You have the London Marathon, the Sydney Marathon, the New York Marathon and now the Gaza Marathon," said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

"It just shows that Gaza could be a normal place if it got the chance," he said.

Nader el Masri is one of 26 aspiring Olympians being tracked by the BBC's World Olympic Dreams project in the run up to London 2012.

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