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Kristina Paltén, the woman who went through Iran running alone to leave her prejudices behind

How comfortable is the sofa of our own prejudices: always willing to welcome preconceived ideas, coo and reinforce them to infinity and beyond. Because, what would be the opposite ?: go out into the “outside world” and look us in the face? Are you willing to take your own routes and listen to the other? Unlearn the fears that society, the media, our environment or ourselves impose? The Swedish runner Kristina Paltén He was clear and challenged his own prejudices through Iran alone, with a 25-kilo cart (which turned out to weigh 40 around the corner) for 48 days. An adventure of 1840 kilometers

Kristina Paltén during her trip to Iran © Soroush Morshedian

He planned his challenge: cross Iran running with your cart. In it he put a tent, a small kitchen, clothes, a video camera ... All prepared for an adventure that began on September 5, 2015.

“I wanted to challenge my own prejudices about being a single western woman who travels and runs alone in a Muslim country. I was wondering what would happen if I did. The reason I wanted to challenge myself is because I think there is so much fear in the world between the West and Islam that I thought: 'Well, I don't want fear, I want a world full of confidence, curiosity and openness'”, Explains Paltén through a Skype interview from his native Sweden.

Kristina Paltén's route: 1840 kilometers running in Iran © Kristina Paltén


Despite having run two years ago with a friend from Turkey to Finland, Palten honestly portrayed his landing in a country where I didn't know the language or the culture. "I'm fucking scared," he acknowledges in a video that will be part of the documentary Alone across Iran: 1144 miles of trust. “I was alone and could not breathe, there were not many people who spoke English, it was very difficult for me to make myself understood. Two days ago a friend with cancer had died, I was sad and I felt lonely in a country I didn't know anything about, ”he recalls.

However, that feeling did not last long. "Already the first day I felt comfortable! I was a little nervous about how people would treat me but I came to the city where I was going to stay, I found a campsite, I placed my tent and the man who ran the campsite came suddenly and gave me food. Simply because I was a foreigner. Then I went to a restaurant that had Wi-Fi because I wanted to upload photos and videos and then they started giving me free food, just because, because I was a foreigner and they considered the guest as a friend of God. I thought wow, this is not at all how I had thought, People are very friendly!, ”He says as his face lights up.

A small town on the way to Marand © Kristina Paltén

It is not uncommon to imagine how a Swedish woman running alone with temperatures up to 40 degrees At some moments he drew attention to his step, slowly but surely. “I always run slowly, I don't do anything extreme, Although it sounds weird, I always run slowly”, He says. He soon stopped worrying about food as drivers stopped to offer him food, water and fruit. His story reached four national televisions and several radios as his adventure progressed. The Iranians followed his blog and left messages of encouragement. A western foreigner running alone across the country? It does not happen every day.

"I am playing with children in a small village called Showt. It was on the second day of my career, in the northwestern part of Iran" © Kristina Paltén


He has a hard time choosing which landscapes have nested in his memory, "there are so many!" But soon it is transported to SareynIn the northwest of the country, a small city in a volcanic area, full of hot springs and surrounded by snowy mountains. "It's small, beautiful, friendly and full of places to take a hot bath."

He also does not forget Ramsar, on the coast of the Caspian Sea, where an old palace, summer residence, of the monarch Reza Shah is located. "It's very green, almost like a jungle but by the sea." Or the highest mountain in the country, Mt. Damāvand or Donbavand, with its 5610 meters. Landscapes full of “sand, mountains and silence near the border with Turkmenistan”.

On the road from Quchan to the border to Turkmenistan © Kristina Paltén


In Sareyn He met a man who was alone in the street, when he ran past him he said: Hello, you must be Kristina!

“He had heard about me and invited me to his home. In his house was his mother, the mother of ten people. This woman gave me such a warm and beautiful hug as soon as she entered her home ... she asked me if I had a picture of my mother and I showed her on my mobile phone. And then he said: now I am your mother. Y I understand how worried your mother is, I'm worried too! Please keep in touch so I know you are safe, ”he says. Then he dressed him in the typical regional costume of Azerbaijan, whose influence is felt in this region west of Iran. “His daughter was there and we laughed a lot! After we prepared the meal together, I went to the bathrooms with her daughter and her cousin and it was simply a wonderful afternoon. ” The next morning, "her Persian mother" was waiting for her and spilling water on the street, "That means I'm going to have a safe trip."

Kristina Paltén with one of the typical costumes of Azerbaijan © Kristina Paltén

"My Saryen Persian mother along with Inga, my pet" © Kristina Paltén


Kristina Paltén has traveled to more than fifty countries (although not all of them have run through them) but she defines Iran as "the most vibrant, friendly and hospitable of those I've met." During his 58-day trip he only used half of his budget. "I was sleeping with 34 different families, people offered me food and I couldn't eat all the fruit that people gave me, ”he says.

His steps not only drew the path of an adventure, but also bonds of trust between the Iranians themselves. “A lot of people were really impressed by what they were doing, since they wouldn't have allowed it to themselves. They were surprised, impressed and also proud. Many people began to follow my blog, they could see that I was safe, that the trip was going well, where I was going, ”he recalls. And why not have a party? That should have been thought by one of the families, who invited the remaining 33 who had hosted Kristina to a dinner in Tehran. “In Iran you trust your family, it is the most important thing but they don't really trust others. Here they saw that the other families are as friendly as they were, they were very happy and They said: let's celebrate it!”Recalls Kristina.

Spreading fruit during the tour © Kristina Paltén


He started running at 31, that year he completed his first race: ten kilometers. He made his first ultramarathon with 36 years and now, with 45 years, he keeps the long distances. "I don't like to run fast," he adds. Define running as a meditation. "It has to do with being calm, relaxed, without thinking about anything, observing nature and meeting people”.

Now you are thinking about your next adventure, maybe it's the Camino de Santiago or travel by Namibia, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique ("Although I don't know if running with wild animals would be safe or not ..."). For now they are just projects, but he throws his message: “If you have a dream go for it, do it. Really worth it" In his case, in addition, it has ended up in unexpected places: such as the book he will publish in the spring of 2018 and the documentary that will pick up his route thanks to his images and those of a filmmaker who recorded his trip for eight days. "Running through Iran has meant a lot to me, I've broken so many prejudices, I've learned so much ... It's such a valuable memory, all the kind people I've met, that makes me happy just to remember it. ”

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'Alone across Iran: 1144 miles of trust' © D.R.

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