Archive for April, 2014

New hopes for artistic freedom in Iran.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

The following article is published here courtesy of:

International New York Times

Singer Steps Into Spotlight as Nation Changes Political Tune

Xaniar Khosravi, 29, performed in one of four concerts allowed him by Iran’s government. Mr. Khosravi’s upbeat style of music had long been deemed too Western.
April 28, 2014
TEHRAN — The onetime underground pop singer smiled shyly as the high-pitched screams of his teenage fans drifted into his dressing room, just before his show on Friday. This superstar thing, he seemed to be saying, takes some getting used to.

“Xaniar! Xaniar! Xaniar!” the crowds roared from the auditorium in North Tehran.

In less than 15 minutes, Xaniar Khosravi, 29, an Iranian-Kurdish performer whose upbeat music was long deemed by Iran’s powerful Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture as illegal for being too Western, would step onto a stage before thousands of fans for his second official concert ever (the first was the night before).

Mr. Khosravi was more accustomed to hearing his love songs, distributed on the Internet, blasting from car sound systems on Tehran’s crowded streets. His voice was famous, but only a few knew his face.

Mr. Khosravi, second from right, who has distributed his music on the Internet, joined members of his band for photographs backstage before a concert.
“I was like a football player without a pitch to play on,” Mr. Khosravi said of his days as an illegal singer. “I had no album, just a collection of songs, and no concerts. It was as if I had no identity.”

That had all changed with a ministry official’s stroke of a pen, the singer’s assistants explained while nipping from strawberry mocktails in the V.I.P. room next to the auditorium where Mr. Khosravi’s entourage had set up shop.

Nobody really wanted to say it, as politics is a subject to avoid for the few who are allowed to stand in the limelight in Iran, but Mr. Khosravi’s presence on the stage was the direct result of the election of Hassan Rouhani, a self-proclaimed moderate, as president in June. During his campaign, Mr. Rouhani repeatedly called for more artistic freedoms.

“Let’s just say that before no official would even meet with me,” Mr. Khosravi said. “But now I am allowed to have four concerts.”

Despite Mr. Khosravi’s new concert career, Rouhani supporters have been disappointed at the slow pace of change, with few other signs of cultural relaxation in Iran’s capital. A female singer was allowed to sing a song by herself in a musical, “In the Last Days of Esfand,” a first in the Islamic republic’s 35-year history. Next week, an Iranian singer formerly based in the United States, Habib Mohebbian, will be allowed to publish a book of poetry.

He is not allowed to sing, however.

Several reformist newspapers were closed by the conservative judiciary and remain shuttered, and social media and millions of websites are still blocked.

Mr. Khosravi’s concert, therefore, was mostly a chance to do something different in this city of 12 million, an opportunity quickly seized by Iran’s entertainment-starved young people.

Hundreds of boys wearing baseball caps and girls covered with brightly colored head scarves waited excitedly in front of the concert hall, having been dropped off by parents who in all likelihood also shelled out the $20 cost of a ticket.

Chewing gum and texting on their smartphones, few of them could recall the days when hard-line vigilantes raided pop concerts, calling the events “harbingers of a Western cultural invasion” and shutting down sound systems and at times attacking the audience members.

Still, the fact that an underground singer was suddenly allowed to perform was widely perceived as a miracle.

“We never expected him to be able to give a concert,” said Yasaman Tehrani, 21, a civil engineering student wearing light orange lipstick. “I think he changed some of his lyrics in order for his songs to be more acceptable. I don’t care as long as we can enjoy ourselves.”

When the gates opened, they all rushed in, but only after having passed a gate where a huge policeman and a colleague in plainclothes checked all the head scarves to make sure they did not reveal too much hair.

After that, the long line of teenagers passed a huge billboard showing a portrait of Mr. Rouhani, smiling like a benevolent grandfather, accompanied by his slogan: “The Government of Foresight and Hope.”

Kimia Faroghi, a 17-year-old high school student, said that she hoped that someday her favorite American singers, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, would give a concert in Tehran, a thought that made her friends giggle.

“Normally, we don’t have that many concerts here in Tehran,” Ms. Faroghi said, adding that she did not vote for Mr. Rouhani, “because I was too young to vote at the time.”

Backstage, Mr. Khosravi changed into a dark blue Versace vest and took some selfies with his band of young musicians before his performance.

Green laser beams flashed throughout the 2,000-seat concert hall as teenagers waved yellow fluorescent glow sticks, yelling for Mr. Khosravi. Everybody had to sit in allocated seats, and while boys and girls were allowed to sit next to one another, teams of Islamic hall monitors routinely passed by correcting those women whose head scarves were about to fall off.

As in all public halls in Iran, a large portrait of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hung on the left of the stage, and one of the founder of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, hung on the right.

Mr. Khosravi kicked off the evening with one of his big hits, “Genuine Idea.” Drums pounded, guitars screeched and three huge video screens showed images of forests and rivers alternating with shots of the band members.

Dancing, or “harmonious movements” to the ruling Shiite Muslim clerics, is forbidden in Iran, so everybody rocked in their seats, waving their arms during the more rhythmic songs.

“It’s just you in my thoughts, I’m looking for a genuine idea, I want to be in your heart forever,” sang Mr. Khosravi, who is married. “Is it even possible at all that we are apart? Come put your hands in mine.”

“We love you, Xaniar!” girls yelled at the top of their lungs.

In one of the front rows, a family of three could be seen crying throughout the performance. Approached after the show, one of the family members, an older woman who had looked somewhat out of place, explained that her son, Amir Rad, 24, was the band’s drummer.

Her son’s love for music had long been a point of contention for the family, said his mother, Fariba Rad, who said that she, like most Iranian parents, wanted him to become a doctor or an engineer. “We always told him he was wasting his time with those drums,” she said as her husband, Ali Rad, nodded in agreement. “But we were wrong, he really did it, and we are so proud.”

Before the show, Mr. Khosravi had said that for years he had “pain in his heart” when he thought of giving a concert, knowing that it was nearly impossible.

“I wish all underground singers can have their concerts,” Mr. Khosravi said. “Maybe we will have to wait for some time, but it will happen.”


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Spot tracker not updating

Monday, April 21st, 2014

It seems my Spot tracker is not updating.
This started on Sunday . Not a battery problem as they were brand new.
Sunday was also my birthday. Thanks for all your messages, sorry just too many to respond to! I ran my birthday in kilometres all 57 of them! I know many American runners that do this in miles but as they age they miraculously discover the wisdom of kilometers :)

Are there any 80 year old sprinters out there? Zero to 80 METRES in how many seconds!
I should reach or be close to Zanjan today.
Sorry for this. I hope its a glitch.

I spent the night in a lovely sandy culvert under the road for it looked like it was going to rain. A lovely day :)

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30 Day Iran Visa Extension Secured – The Islamic Revolution.

Monday, April 14th, 2014

I got my Iran visa extended by 30 days yesterday, Sunday a business day here. Thanks to a letter of introduction from Irish honorary consul to Tehran Mr. Alireza Feizollahi for dispatching his driver to help me through the loop and hoop nightmare it would have been on my own. Yes Yousef was wonderful. We must have went to about ten offices and hatches in the building. However I  almost had a problem as Iranian immigration were at first only going to give me one week then said 15 days saying they ignore all the stuff about 30 day extensions on the internet. Even though the twin identical forms I filled out were in Farsi with an English option, after filling  them out in English we were told to fill them out in Farsi! Thankfully there was a very new nice woman that kindly obliged and translate both :) As they say it all depends on the mood of the clerk you get as later I talked to a French man who zoomed through in half an hour for his extension. The nice lady came back over to assist when I was arguing that the letter of introduction from the consulate was not a commercial letter as different rules apply for a business visa. This immigration officer  had first told me to come back next day and talk to his boss. But when I was querying if the 15 days started from day of issue and if all remaining 7 days on my current visa would be lost, as I had read this. If issued a 15 days extension would I have 2 or 3 weeks. I could finish Iran in 3 weeks but would have a very tough time with 2 weeks. Suddenly this man playing God told me to come back in the afternoon. So we went to the consulate for tea and returned a couple of hours later. Back at the immigration office that afternoon I was greeted by a very nice man who I assumed was the boss. He was interested in the run saying he would like to help and duly gave me the 30 days I requested. Delighted we returned to the Irish Consulate and Alireza treated me to a delicious lunch in a very posh restaurant called Nayeb. We had a very interesting conversation about Iran and world affairs. Alireza, an Iranian has been working for the Irish companies for about 20 years and presumably was well known to the Irish government as they asked him to take up the position of honorary Consulate a couple of years ago. He speaks fluent English having been educated in Oxford and later Kansas. We talked about the Iranian revolution which was really a relatively bloodless revolution many people may be surprised to know. Yes I remembered when I crossed from Turkey in December 1978 on my world cycle trip while the shah was still in power. The Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s spiritual leader then called for civil disobedience from his exile in Paris. This meant the borders were closed and I was effectively trapped there for 6 weeks. I only had a little money and survived by selling my blood plasma twice.  That was till Shah Pahlavi fled to Egypt. Many countries did not want him. Later I believe he went to Hawaii. Jubilant crowds gathered in the city centre square and hacked down a horsebacked statue of  the Shah. Soldiers who days earlier were loyal to the Shah smiled as people put flowers into the barrels of their rifles. They were on guard at the  British embassy and would never again point their rifles at their people. Today behind that same British embassy is a street names after Bobby Sands, the first of the IRA hunger strikers to die in a seperate struggle in Northern Irelands H-Block prision   a couple of  weeks later. At the beginning of February 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran greeted by much jubilation. The borders opened and I left very fast for Afghanistan! I asked Alireza why I do not see many satellite dishes as in have been looking out for them and have seen only about a dozen. They have been banned by the Islamic government but later that day I read some 70% Iranians have them which they have disguised. It is also illegal for women not to wear the hijab, or head scarf. Even foreign women travellers have to have a head covering on their visa photo. Always asking strange questions I wondered how women manage here when they go to their hairdresser! It is also illegal for men to wear short pants. I am told Iranian men go crazy at the very sight of a woman’s hair, yet many women wear their scarfs but with their hair dangling down. Covering the outline of their boobs doesn’t seem to be as important an issue. Obviously Iranian women are not happy, On the ski slopes high up on the snow covered  Alborz mountain towering up into the clouds. Looking down like a giant head on Tehran, home  to an estimated 12/15 million people – about 20% of the countries population – women continue to ski alongside men and are dressed in sleek ski wear. The Islamic guard have failed to curb or control this.   I am told there is a lot of resentment against the current government. Iranian women account for most university places and possess 62% of engineering and scientific degrees. In my hostel dorm a man from Singapore rushed in to put his socks on as some old men had given him a boloking  for not wearing them with his sandals.  They are modest people. I never see them going to the toilet bat the side of the road and often wondered if they do go at all! Last week I ripped my running tights  and was very conscious of the modesty law for my hairy left leg was showing. Nobody said anything , I guess they thought I was a tramp! I stopped on Tehran’s Amir Kabir Avenue for a burger and fries. I also ordered tea but tea wasn’t available. Upon hearing my request a man who had a tea shop next door brought me in two cups and refused payment telling me in an almost comical manner that… ” I have more money than I need! ” Apparently he made it under the former Shahs reign. For some reason he left a book titled Technical Readings For Helicopter Mechanics by Thomas  Tinkham on my table.   Facebook is also banned in Iran but I am informed most government ministers have their own Facebook accounts. The people have ways to circumvent restricted sites. I was advised to install a vpm on my smart phone before entering Iran, I didn’t so I can’t log onto Facebook or refresh my BBC world service app, strangely I can get the New York Times! Indeed it is not only the women who resent the government men talk of their dislike openly to me and the older ones talk of how things were so much better during the Shah’s reign.As  mentioned before Iran is under pressure from the international community who have applied sanctions against the country. I have not seen any evidence of Iranians living in hardship, the contrary being my experience. They are great outdoors people come the weekend, Thursday and Friday here they are off camping for the weekends pitching their tents in small town parks, at the side of petrol stations and even mosques. I don’t see much local govt cut back either, I see teams of city workers patrolling the highways, planting flowers, painting and all general maintenance work. Even electricity in the desert area rest stops. People come up to me all the time wanting to offer their friendship, so unobtrusive and always leave me when I would rather be on my own or busy running on the road. Not a moments delay for they are gentle people – All have one question, almost a paranoia. They always ask what I or the world thinks of Iran.I can’t help reflecting on India where obtaining a ministerial or local government position is viewed more as a personal wealth achievement rather than as a duty to their citizens. I can barely remember seeing a city park or.any other facilities there, just broken roads and pavements and rats.living in Agra train station where people seemed unconcerned as they slept. Also rats.on the train tracks and on the luggage racks nibbling at passenger bags I am told! Yes Iran is the very country I need after India. The sanctions against Iran – that included blockades of oil and overseas bank accounts – helped push the Iranians towards the negotiating table to agree to inspections of their nuclear programme. The Iranian economy had suffered from the sanctions imposed in 2012. GDP fell by nearly 6% last year and ilnflation hit double digits, averaging some 39% Current President is Dr. Hassan Rohani.  Rohani has promised a whole load of social reforms but the system has made it difficult for him to deliver. The government is made of three branches: Legislative, Judiciary and executive branches. However according to Iranian constitution the spiritual leader can play an important role in the overall decision making process. Many thanks to Roshni Rai for sponsoring my two night stay in Tehran’s wonderful backpackers hostel called Mashhad Hostel. Anyone that wants to sponsor a night, meal etc. Please  feel free to donate on the PayPal link on the side bar. Thank you.

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The 1,000th Marathon has been run in under 1,000 days and the plan going forward

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Sorry it has taken me almost a week to get this posting up! For this run I have had to dig very deep into my endurance base and mind games which as I have said on many many occasions has made a very ordinary runner a two time world 48 hour record-holder in addition to many Irish records. Mind strength, tenacity and a lot of dumb stupidity :) being my only really talents in life I have somehow found an outlet to channel this and  succeed with what in other walks of life may seem so meaningless. Anyway thank you to all those countless people who have helped on this world run. I would like to single out Michael Gillan who was my brilliant crew man on the Australian mainland leg of the run from near Melbourne to Darwin, I think about 3,800km of patience and kindness by a true gentleman of the sport. Michael gave up 9 and a half weeks to help me. He has since told me of a very serious illness he had at the time but still dedicated himself to my Australian success. After helping me he crewed for two New Zealand ‘ raw vegan ‘ runners on their year long run around Oz as mentioned in my blog last May. Unfortunately Michaels health suffered at that time and he had to leave the run for medical attention. Just last week he sent me a congrats message and though battling his own personal battle and by no means out of the woods he was off to the Coburg 24 hour race to he’ll out, such is the measure of the man. The 1,000th marathon was reached in 962.8 road days on April 5th when fittingly I ran a marathon. I hear by dedicate my 1,000Marathon in under 1,000 road days to Michael Gillan.. Thank you Michael for your inspiration, encouragement and much needed patience through Australia, we had a blast! I will be forever grateful. Goof luck and a healthy recovery Michael By the way I tried to run the 1,000 Marathon on April 1st but ran out of time! Some fool! Okay here is the plan literally going forward! I am announcing for the very first time that I want to hit the 50,000 kilometre on the finish line of the Dublin marathon on October 27th with my very last step across the finish line :) Today April 11th 54km were run for s grand total of 42,464km. It is 2,450 to Istanbul about 3,100 across Europe to Calais and my recently revised  UK route from Dover to Stranraer, Scotland dropped Wales from the run. However I am now hoping to include Wales, a special country for me as I ran many half marathons races there as a much younger runner. My UK route should be about 1,000km starting there about the beginning of September. From Stranraer I plan to take the ferry to Larne. N.Ireland perhaps first week in October. Estimated north/south Ireland route about 900 km, so it may be tight for the 50,000kilometers. Places definitely penciled in are Belfast, Galway, Kilkenny and Sally Gap. There are one or two places I may include. So all this means that on the penultimate road day I will finish on the marathon start line in Dublin’s Dawson St, I think it is.. Can’t remember for sure, have run a lot of marathons since I was last there! When I finish that day I will have to have my run total at 49,957.8km so as to finish the run with the dream 50,000 kilometers on the nose!

I am also thinking of making one final big push for Istanbul to arrive by end of May. This is about 50km per day for 50 days. This would leave me the must sought after 1,000km a month for five months which at that stage of the run will seem like an enjoyable  canter, I hope.

Many thanks to Kevin Scanlon for helping me try to arrange the finish. Also thanks to my Irish running club MSB for agreeing to facilitate and help out. Also for Dublin marathon  race director Jim Augney for agreeing to allow what I promise will be a spectacular finale to the run. Will keep this quiet for now but am sure it will leak out!


I stole this idea from Stephen Neuman, a friend of mine who walked around he world. Upon reading

the ending of his book titled World Walk I said..

” Wow! What A bloody brilliant idea!

Anyway, thanks for reading. Its nearly 2am.. Gotta sleep and run :)




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1,000th marathon on Saturday!

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Many people thought it couldn’t be done! Tomorrow Saturday after running 32km I will have run a total of 1,000 marathons in 963 road days :)
I will set the ” OK ” button on my Spot tracker and hope it will register as sometimes it doesn’t like tonight, when I reach this ‘ kilometre stone ‘ No it doesn’t sound as good as milestone!
That is kilometre 42,195 or about 26,200 miles.
Yesterday I stopped early after 36km as there was a place to stay at a truck stop and nothing else  for the next 40 km. I didn’t want to stop but decided it would be sensible especially as burger and chips was on the dinner and breakfast menu! So today to make up I ran 63km to finish on the outskirts of Ardestan where I am staying in a mosque.
I am managing running the Iranian desert with my backpack very comfortably. It is not so hot now as I run further north.
Today four lots if people stopped to give me tea, bread fruit sweets and water. The Iranian people are such lovely people. Thank you all so much.
Total after today is: 42,163 km.
Thanks to everyone for their support. Talk tomorrow, gotta sleep and run :)

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About Tony

I have always considered myself to be an average runner. In school, I was even bullied for I was a sports wimp. Through hard work, dedication, perseverance, self-belief and a strong mind I succeeded in not only running around the world but breaking four ultra running world records during my competitive career. Having previously cycled around the world I didn't start running until I was almost 30. Then I had a dream of running around the world. For many reasons, I waited for over 20 years. One reason was to establish my pedigree as an endurance athlete. I started and finished my world run as the current World Record-Holder for 48 Hours Indoor Track 426 kilometres (265 miles), a record I have held since 2007. I also broke and still hold the World Record for 48 hours on a Treadmill 405 kilometres (251 miles) in 2008. When I retired from competition, more pleasing than any of my world, European or Irish records I had the respect of my fellow athletes from all over the world - in my opinion, sports greatest reward - an achievement I am most proud of. Then I finally put myself out to pasture, to live my ultimate dream to run around the world! This blog was written on the road while I struggled to find places to sleep and to recover from running an average of 43.3 kilometres or 27 miles per day for 1,165 road days. There were many nights I typed this blog on a smart phone, so fatigued my eyes closed. Many journalists and endurance athletes have referred to my world run as the most difficult endurance challenge ever attempted. During my expedition I rarely had any support vehicles, running mostly with a backpack. In the more desolate areas I pushed my gear, food and water in a cart which I called Nirvana, then I sent her on ahead to run with my backpack once again over altitudes of almost 5,000 metres in the Andes. I stayed in remote villages where many people had never seen a white person before. I literally met the most wonderful people of this world in their own backyard and share many of those amazing experiences in this blog. My run around the world took 4 years. There were no short cuts, I ran every single metre on the road while seeking out the most comprehensive route across 41 countries, 5 continents, I used 50 pair of running shoes and my final footstep of the run was exactly 50,000 kilometres, (almost 31,000 miles) I eventually finished this tongue in cheek named world jog where I started, at the finish line of my city marathon. I started my global run with the Dublin Marathon on October 25th 2010 and finished with the Dublin Marathon on October 27th 2014 at 3 05pm! Thank you for your support, I hope you can share my unique way of seeing the world, the ultimate endurance challenge! Read more...


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