BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President and Founder
Stephanie Case (BA(H), JD, LLM)* is a human rights lawyer and women’s rights advocate with expertise in conflict settings and humanitarian emergencies. In 2009, she gave up a career in corporate law to assist some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. She has since worked for the UN in Afghanistan, the International Rescue Committee in South Sudan, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Kyrgyzstan, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Gaza, Palestine. Today Stephanie is based in Geneva, where she works for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Stephanie has witnessed first-hand the harmful effects of conflict and the disproportionate negative impact on women and girls. She founded Free to Run to use the power of sports to transform lives and communities in the places where it's needed most.
As an avid ultra-runner, Stephanie has won or placed in a number of international running events, ranging from 250 km multi-day desert races to 200-mile non-stop mountain races. Stephanie is a passionate advocate for women’s rights, and a recent TEDx speaker.
Ann Wells Crandall
Ann Wells Crandall is the Chief Marketing Officer of the BIG EAST Conference. In her role, Ann oversees all marketing and sales initiatives including brand development, advertising and promotion, strategic communications, corporate sales and sponsorship, licensing and digital strategies.
Prior to joining the BIG EAST, Ann was the Executive Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships for the New York Road Runners (NYRR). At NYRR, she helped to deliver triple-digit revenue growth and several long term strategic partnerships, including the organization's first-ever title sponsorship of the New York City Marathon (ING New York City Marathon). She also assisted in the negotiations for the Marathon's media rights and content strategy for the five-hour Marathon television broadcast.
Ann has held senior positions with the National Basketball Association and DIRECTV, Inc. She is a recognized leader in the sports business industry, and was named to Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal as one of its inaugural "Game Changers: Women in Business" in 2011.
James Willcox, is the co-Founder of the adventure travel company, Untamed Borders. This unique travel group specializes in trips to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Middle East, East Africa, former Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus. James has travelled extensively through all of these regions as well.
In 2013 he was awarded a personal commendation by the Governor of the Bamyan Province, for his part in bringing ski tourism to Afghanistan. Since 2015, Untamed Borders has been a key partner in the annual Marathon of Afghanistan, the only international marathon in the country.
Alex Bancroft, Board Treasurer, is a certified public accountant (CPA) with Garvey, Steele & Company in Mystic, Connecticut. She has almost 15 years of experience in auditing governments, businesses and not for profit organizations.
Alex is also a race director with the Berkshires Ultra Running Community for Service (BURCS). This amazing community of runners has been fundraising for Free to Run since 2015. Alex is a passionate runner who has competed in a number of races including 10 ultra-marathons.
Leah Anathan is a marketing leader in the software industry. She has over 20 years of experience in brand and product strategy, and growth marketing for technology startups. Passionate about product innovation, Leah has helped multiple software companies to launch award-winning products. Today she is the Chief Marketing Officer at Qubit in London.
Leah also spent 15 years as a competitive equestrian where she learned first-hand the positive impact that sports can have on the lives of women and girls. She was an early advisor for Free to Run, and joined the board officially in 2016 to help lead marketing and comms for the charity.
Duncan Wilson* works for the United Nations in Myanmar where he serves as an advisor to a number of governments. His work with the UN has taken him all over the world including assignments in South and South East Asia, East Africa, the Middle East, and the Pacific.
Before joining the UN, Duncan worked in journalism and communications in New York, Washington D.C., and his native New Zealand.
*All board members currently working for the United Nations volunteer for Free to Run and act in their personal capacity.
The Free to Run Ambassadors are an elite group of athletes from around the world who represent the spirit and strength of our organization. They are recognized as role models, trail blazers, and pioneers in the realm of sports and outdoor adventure. Each ambassador has generously volunteered their time and effort to support the work of Free to Run.
Mimi Anderson is a world-class ultra-runner who holds multiple Guinness World Records. She has raced across deserts in the Sahara, Libya, Chile, Kalahari and Namibia. She has raced over mountains in Colorado, the Alps and the Himalayas. She has braved the Jungles of Peru, and set a new female record in one of the hottest places on earth. At the other end of extremes, Mimi has raced and won a 352-mile self-sufficiency race in the Arctic, setting a course record that has yet to be broken.
In 2008 Mimi completed a run from John O’Groats to Land’s End in the UK, a distance of 840 miles. Along the way, she set a new Female World Record. In 2012, she set another Female World Record for running the length of Ireland, 345 miles. Anderson is the first person to hold both World Records simultaneously.
In September 2014, Mimi ran an average of 61km for 32 consecutive days across South Africa’s Freedom Trail (2,000km). In doing so, she raised over £26,000 on behalf of Save the Children.
In addition to her running, Mimi is also a motivational speaker and coach who helps others to achieve their goals and dreams.
Nelofar and Zainab
Nelofar and Zainab act as Free to Run Ambassadors in Afghanistan. Together they’re helping to promote women’s participation in sports in their communities and across the country.
In June 2015, they successfully completed a 250km self-supported footrace across the Gobi desert in China. In doing so, they made history as Afghanistan’s first ultramarathon team – but they didn’t stop there. Upon returning to Afghanistan, Nelofar and Zainab ran in the second annual (unofficial) Kabul marathon.
In October 2015, Zainab became the first woman to complete an official marathon in Afghanistan. In the Netherlands ‘Zainab the Runner’ has become a female superhero cartoon, inspired by Zainab’s very real achievements.
Amy Sproston has been running since she was 11 years old and competing in ultramarathons since 2006. She is on the Montrail-Mountain Hardwear Team and is a world-class athlete, although you would never know it from her down-to-earth and humble attitude.
When she isn’t running, Amy works for an international nonprofit that helps people around the world after conflict, crisis and natural disaster, which has brought her to Afghanistan a number of times already. Through her travel for both work and running, Amy has had the opportunity to run in over 40 countries, and feels there is no better way to see the world. Amy is an inspirational role model for runners and non-runners alike.
Amy has competed in more than 60 ultramarathons over the past decade, winning more than 20 of those. Some of her top finishes include a win at the 2012 IAU 100K World Championship, the 2015 HURT 100, and 3 top-ten finishes at Western States, including a 3rd place finish there in 2013.
Jenny Davis is a lawyer, athlete, triathlon coach and personal trainer. She is also an X-bionic sponsored athlete. Above all, Jenny is passionate about promoting women’s participation in sport. She has been involved in sports from a young age, including swimming at an elite level for Scotland. Her impressive athletic career has allowed her to travel the world and in a number of countries, she has experienced first hand of some of the difficulties women face when trying to participate in local sporting events.
Jenny mentored Free to Run's first Iranian running team, and together they competed in the Iran Silk Road Ultramarathon in May 2016. In 2017, she created the first-ever International Women’s Team to compete in the Marathon des Sables.
Mahsa is an Iranian woman who is working tirelessly to provide sports opportunities for women in her country. Ten years ago she broke barriers in Iran by negotiating with the cycling federation for the opportunity to travel by bicycle alone.
She opened the way for other females in the country who wanted to cycle, and started her own cycling team. In recent years, Mahsa has combined her love of cycling and climbing. She completed an expedition from the lowest point in Iran (-28m) to the highest (5671m) at the summit of Damavand mountain.
In February 2016, Mahsa made history by running in the first international marathon in Iran, which was only open to male entries. In May 2016, she ran in a 250km self-supported footrace through the Iranian Dasht-e-Lut desert. This was a ground-breaking event as it was the first time in almost four decades that men and women competed together in an Iranian running race.
Zahra and Farahnaz
Zahra and Farah met at a boarding school in Kabul in 2010 and have been studying on competitive scholarships in the United States whilst simultaneously taking up running. Both started their running adventures with a half marathon in 2015, followed by a few marathons. In September 2017, they competed in a 50 mile ultra at the Free to Run Trail Races in Massachusetts. Together, they work towards changing the narrative of Muslim runners in the West.
Their experience of growing up in Afghanistan has inspired many Free to Run supporters in the United States. Zahra also shares her adventures with a broader audience through her blog, The Hijabi Runner.
Arzoo and Kubra
Arzoo and Kubra became Free to Run Ambassadors in Afghanistan in 2016 after competing in RacingThePlanet Sri Lanka, a 250km self-supported ultramarathon. They formed part of the first mixed-gender running team from their country.