BOARD OF DIRECTORS
fOUNDER AND PRESIDENT
Stephanie Case* is a human rights lawyer and competitive ultra-runner. In 2009, she gave up a career in corporate law to pursue a passion for justice and a longstanding desire to assist some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Since then she has traveled all over the world, working for organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in South Sudan, and the UN in Afghanistan.
Stephanie has witnessed first-hand the harmful effects of conflict on communities, particularly for females. Sports of any kind are extremely limited or nonexistent due to a lack of resources and security issues. When they are available, women and girls are often restricted from participating due to widespread discrimination, and traditional beliefs about female roles. Stephanie founded Free to Run with the goal of providing running, fitness and outdoor adventure programs for women and girls from conflict-affected regions.
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 100-mile non-stop mountain races. From her award winning blog, she offers humor, advice and inspiration to fellow runners.
Stephanie currently works for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Gaza. She serves as the President of Free to Run in a volunteer capacity.
Chair and Secretary
Cornelia Schneider* is a rule of law professional and women’s rights specialist with a decade of experience in complex conflict settings across Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Born in Germany, she speaks German, English, French, Spanish, and some Arabic.
Connie began her career as a solicitor with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London and Paris. In 2004, she made a significant decision to change careers and obtained a Master’s (MALD) with a focus on legal regulation of conflict or post-conflict environments, from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Since then, Connie has dedicated her career to helping conflict affected communities. She has worked for organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Criminal Court, the European Union and the United Nations. Her work has included assignments in Afghanistan, Congo, Chad and Sudan.
Today Connie works for the UN in New York. A periodic writer and speaker on women’s issues and strengthening the rule of law in countries affected by crisis, she is also the recipient of the very first Women’s Leadership Award from the Fletcher School. In her free time, Connie can be found running in Central Park.
Virginie Goethals is a qualified lawyer, and expert in sustainable development. She is also an experienced ultra-runner, and the mother of three beautiful children.
Based in Hong Kong, Virginie brings a wealth of non-profit experience to Free to Run. She serves on the board of Morning Tears Hong Kong, a non-profit that focuses on the rights of children with imprisoned parents. Virginie is managing Free to Run’s Hiking to Heal, and Track Training programs. These programs provide hiking and running opportunities to refugees who are survivors of torture and human rights abuses.
Virginie also serves as a mentor to the women and girls who participate in long-distance running events with Free to Run. Born in Belgium, Virginie speaks English, French, Dutch, and has basic knowledge of Chinese and Spanish.
Duncan Wilson* works for the United Nations where he serves as an advisor to a number of governments. He has worked all over the world including assignments in South and South East Asia, East Africa, the Middle East, and the Pacific.
Duncan has also worked in journalism and communications in New York, Washington D.C., and his native New Zealand.
Duncan took up the sport of ultra-running while living and working in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Sardar is one of the founders of the Afghan environmental organization, Conservation Organization for Afghan Mountain Areas (COAM). COAM is a key partner for Free to Run.
Based in Afghanistan, Sardar has worked with a number of UN agencies including UNEP, UNHCR and UNFPA. He is an advocate for the Afghan people, working tirelessly to bring positive change to his community.
Sardar joined the board because he strongly supports Free to Run’s mission and has witnessed first-hand the positive impact of the programs in Afghanistan. Sardar brings his passion, humour, and extensive local knowledge to Free to Run, helping to effect change at a grassroots level.
Fatma was born in Afghanistan and raised in the Netherlands. While living in the Netherlands, she received her Master’s in Political Science from Leiden University. In 2007, Fatma returned to Afghanistan to work with several international organizations on a range of issues including security and justice.
Today she is working for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting global poverty. Fatma joined the board of Free to Run because she believes that sports are a powerful tool for conflict transformation, and can positively impact the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan.
Fatma speaks English, Dutch, Dari, and has basic knowledge of Pashto.
*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.
Lucy Rivers Bulkeley
In 2010, Lucy became the first European woman to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam. To achieve this, she finished 250 km self-supported footraces in the Gobi Desert, Atacama Desert, Sahara Desert and Antarctica.
Lucy is currently attempting to complete the Seven Summits. She is well on her way, having completed Aconcagua, Elbrus, Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro. In 2014, Lucy attempted to climb Everest.
Tragically, there was a massive avalanche while she was acclimatizing at Base Camp, resulting in the single deadliest accident on the mountain. Lucy was shaken and humbled by the experience, but by no means defeated. After paying respects to those who lost their lives, she flew to Denali to attempt another of the Seven Summits. Her determination, strength and can-do spirit is an inspiration to us all.
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 is a London-based lawyer as well as an athlete, triathlon coach and personal trainer. Jenny’s ultimate passion is promoting women’s participation in sport. Willing to do anything to help others achieve their goals and dreams, Jenny is a great believer in the power of sport as a tool to achieve equality. Jenny has been involved in sports from a young age and used to swim at an elite level for Scotland. Her involvement in sport has allowed her to travel the world and she has experience first hand of some of the difficulties women face in becoming involved in local sporting events in various countries.
As a keen triathlete and long-distance runner, Jenny is also an X-bionic (https://www.x-bionic.co.uk/) sponsored athlete. Jenny mentored Free to Run's first Iranian running team, who competed in the Iran Silk Road Ultramarathon in May 2016.
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.
Arzoo, kubra and mahdi
Arzoo, Kubra and Mahdi became Free to Run Ambassadors in Afghanistan in 2016 after competing in RacingThePlanet Sri Lanka, a 250km self-supported ultramarathon. They were the first mixed gender running team from their country.
Zhala is the youngest member of the Afghan national women's cycling team and a rising star in the Afghan sports scene. She joined the team at the age of only 13 and has been cycling at the national level for over three years now. Insults and stone throwing won't stop her training.
Jeri is an accomplished endurance athlete and ultra-runner. The former Singapore national team triathlete has successfully competed in many prestigious events such as the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, the Ultra Trail Mont-Blanc 168km ultra-marathon in France, and the 330km Tor Des Geants. Her latest adventures for 2016 include the 298km Hong Kong 4 Trails Challenge, and the 895km TransPyrenea run in July.