Running 342 miles in 11 days. That works out to 31 miles a day, more than one full-length marathon. That's the challenge veteran Israeli runner Assaf Stolarz has set himself. A daunting task, but he's doing it for a reason.
"Because it’s 50 years since the murder of the 11 Israeli athletes, we decided to run from Budapest, Hungary all the way west to Munich, Germany as close as possible to the date of the terror attack," he explained to i24NEWS.
In the early hours of September 5, 1972, at the height of the Olympic Games in Munich, eight terrorists from the Palestinian Black September group scaled the two meter-high fence surrounding the laxly-guarded Olympic village and made their way to the block at 31 Conollystrasse, where the Israeli athletes were housed.
Two Israeli athletes, who tried to resist them, were murdered almost immediately, nine others were held hostage in a tense, 21-hour stand-off. All nine hostages, one German policeman, and five of the terrorists were killed in a badly-bungled, harshly-criticized German rescue attempt, which an Israeli athlete who was not taken hostage described as "very amateurish."
The seizure of the hostages, and their subsequent deaths sent shock waves through the world, and caused outrage in Israel. In a decision which was widely criticized, at the time and later, the games were allowed to continue after a brief 34-hour pause.
Ironically, the Munich Olympics was West Germany's attempt to erase the memory, or at least the stain, of the 1936 games, hosted by the Nazis. Stolarz, along with his Hungarian friend Peter Edgo, came up with the idea of running for 11 days, each day dedicated to a different murdered athlete.
"We want to dedicate it to those athletes who were killed in the temple of sport for no reason, or rather, because they were Jewish and Israelis," he said.
The families of the murdered athletes gave their blessing to Stolarz's project, and the Israeli Maccabi World Union sports organization and the Israel Olympic Committee gave help. The journey is set to end this coming weekend in Munich.
"The message is very clear," Stolarz declared. "Run to remember. Don't forget, we are running to remember."
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS.