I was looking for a team and found a Family | By Melissa Martinez
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I was bored, i was lonely, i was homesick.

What does a foreigner in Beirut do to cope?



I ran almost every morning after my arrival in Beirut. Everyday, I would smile at the other runners hoping that i make a runner friend. I would ask people i met, those i was introduced to, random people in my neighborhood who spoke to me, people at work if they ran too, but I was not very lucky.
i ran less and less until one day i just stopped, but my runner soul could not keep still.
When i heard about the Beirut international marathon, i didn’t blink, told myself, I’m running this.
When i discovered Beirut542, my first thought was “a training plan, people to train with, lets go!”
I missed the orientation and was assigned to a random team whose coaches or members i have not met or seen.
It took me a good six months to find people to run with, but when i finally did, i didn’t just find a team, they became my family. Every training day, we learn and discover things that makes us better not just as runners but as people. We share the struggles and joy of training and celebrate every person’s victory. We become strong runner individuals and even stronger as a collective. Our coaches are our pillars and every person in the team a foothold.
Tuesdays Thursdays and Sundays have become a ritual i look forward to.
I still run by myself some days but my head and my heart are never alone.my team, Team Ali Karim, has it’s spirit with me always.
Seri Runs 21KM this Nov 13
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t is said that autistic people have little interest in things, not this kid! Seri Beyhum is a young man who portrays immense interest and enthusiasm in one particular sport: RUNNING!12234991_10153731976504914_4729459847375316146_n

“Seri is extremely built athletically and enjoys physical activity.  However he doesn’t play many of the team sports because he lacks the patience and cannot stick to the rules of engagement of many of the games.  As such, running has been a wonderful sport for him.  Seri has picked up a healthy activity that will hopefully stay with him and one that he can do anywhere and at any time.  He has become very conscious of his stamina now and is better able to gauge his own energy and strength.  As he becomes more mature, he may be able to take his running to a higher level.” Says Suha, Seri’s mother.

What is so interesting about Seri as an individual is the fact that he is the perfect example of how individuals with autism can integrate well into society; Seri, a very bright and special kid, has decided to raise awareness about the Lebanese Autism Society through running a full 21.1KM at the BLOM BANK Beirut Marathon this November.


Seri is running a half Marathon with an open heart, determined mind, and a great coach by his side, Ali Wehbe.  There is nothing stoping him from reaching his goal! The only challenge Seri will face is keeping a “slow” pace throughout the race, as he is prone to sprint it all with all the excitement within.

Seri’s mother explains how her son Seri decided to join this year’s race:
“Seri has always been a good runner but we never had the chance to explore it much with him due to the excessive time he used to spend in therapy.  For the past year’s he’s been running a full 10km and always take the podium.  He enjoyed it so much!  When the Beirut Marathon started placing the statues around town, Seri was super excited about joining and that’s when we sprang into action”.

Seri sure knows how to commit, for he has been running three times per week on the “Corniche” with “Ali Wehbe”, an elite runner and a friend of the family.

However fulfilling running on the streets of Lebanon, Seri makes it clear that he can’t wait to try the actual circuit. For a runner, the actual circuit is not just a road; it is a special cat walk where runners impress us with their determination and perseverance!

Seri’s favorite sport is running of course, but can anyone guess why? Being outdoors is something we all naturally enjoy; nature does all hearts minds and souls good. And having few rules is something we all embrace, thus it is only natural that running is one of the most favorite free sports that we all can engage in. This is particularly what excites Seri about running, and what pushes him to endure all hardships that come along


It is a very good opportunity to shed the light not only on the importance of running as a humanitarian sport, but the beauty of a soul as noble as Seri’s, so strong, so committed, and so respectful, and very cheerful and full of hope.

Lebanon can raise its head with pride with such stories of perseverance and hope. Yes there is hope, and what is more cheerful than hope!

It seems as though life puts forth many obstacles for humans, and it seems as though humanity manages to break them all. So cheers to Humanity that keeps running for the Long run, for a better Tomorrow and a brighter Lebanon


Putting Lebanon On The Sporting Map | By Paul Gains
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One hundred and fifty six women lined up for the Rio Olympic marathon August 14th and among them was a 32 year old Lebanese who could hardly contain her pride.

Chirine Njeim took up running just as her career as a downhill skier was winding down. Three times she competed in the winter Olympics before wearing the Lebanese flag in Rio. That marathon race earned her a distinction which only a very select few athletes can boast: being both a winter and summer Olympian.


Asked from where she drew inspiration to become a runner she says it was her sister’s performance at the 2012 Beirut Marathon.

A year ago, to rapturous applause, Chirine was the first Lebanese woman to cross the line in the 2015 Beirut Marathon something her sister Nesrine achieved three years earlier. On November 13th she returns to the IAAF Silver Label race as a four time Olympian.


Njeim has lived in Chicago with her husband since 2012. In January she beat her own Lebanese national record with a time of 2:44:19 in Houston, which earned her that summer Olympic berth. Returning elicits precious memories.

“My sister started running before me and she did the Beirut marathon three years ago,” Njeim explains fondly. “Running wasn’t something big in Lebanon; I never really paid attention to it. But when my sister first ran, and was the first Lebanese finisher, I was kind of switching from skiing. Part of me was like, it would be fun to go to Lebanon and run a marathon, and that’s when I definitely got more involved.”


While the event has inspired her to become an individual success she also speaks with glowing pride about her ‘hometown’ race and the effect it can have on the Middle East as well as people’s perception of Lebanon.

“For Lebanon to be able to host a marathon this is something huge,” she declares. “Most of the time when you see people gathering in Lebanon it’s because something bad has happened. So having a marathon with people being on the street for a happy reason it means a lot to me.


“Also running is not a huge thing in Lebanon. But it’s slowly growing. So being able to go to Lebanon and represent my country and be a role model for all the young kids is huge to me. May El Khalil has been doing an amazing job bringing people over there.”

Njeim is not alone in her praise of the Beirut Marathon President and founder. Indeed, this is the 14th annual Beirut Marathon and it’s origin can be traced directly to Ms. El Khalil’s initiative. Her story is astonishing.


While out training for a marathon fifteen years ago she was hit by a truck and rushed to hospital. She was in a coma and endured two years of operations.

“That was a turning point in my life,” Ms. El Khalil recalls. “After waking up from a coma I realized I was not going to be the same person I used be. But instead of pitying myself or asking ‘why me?’ I decided to turn this problem into an opportunity and set a higher objective for myself. And that objective was, in case I couldn’t run myself, why not come up with an event or do a marathon in Lebanon, where others could run and connect Lebanon with the outside world.


“So setting that objective definitely was a cognitive thing for me to recover and, during the two years of operations, I was working on the marathon. In 2003 we had the first international marathon.”

El Khalil and her long serving crew approached Lebanese-American athletes representative, Hussein Makke five years ago for help in raising the event’s profile. In that time the Beirut Marathon has been rewarded IAAF Silver Label status a sign that it is a world class event.

“The main reason for getting involved is my belief in their mission along with their dedication to making a difference in a country that suffered more than thirty years with division, war and conflict,” Makke says.

“The biggest difference I have noticed is the level of professionalism. The elite program has become elevated to be one of the most professional run programs in the world. Their focus on developing the road race community in Lebanon has also been tremendous.”


Makke points to the ‘542 program’ which has developed first time marathoners. The Beirut Marathon provides five coaches to work with individual registered runners to prepare for their first marathon. From humble beginnings the program has grown to include more than five hundred runners this year. They will join thousands of others on the streets to celebrate peace.

Meanwhile it is with a great deal of excitement that Chirine Njeim returns to Beirut next month. A year ago she crossed the line with deafening applause from the finish line crowd.

“I am excited, I am ready for it,” she admits. “I know it’s been kind of a long year. It will be my fifth marathon I am excited to be there and support all the young athletes and be a role model for them.


“My mum and dad still live there and my two brothers. It will be nice to see them. My sister will also be running the marathon and it will be fun to run with her.”

There were tears of joy when Chirine Njeim represented Lebanon in Rio and no doubt there will be more tears shed when she runs Beirut next month. Thanks to the establishment of this marathon other Lebanese will be able to follow her onto the international stage.


Can’t Stop The Feeling | By Caroline Zakka
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One Sunny Morning

On that sunny morning in the streets of Jiyéh it was phenomenal: people in tight and colored clothes running all over the place, people on bikes, cars honking, people jumping for pictures, a cameraman on top of a truck, people distributing bananas, people clapping and shouting Bravo, and some weird singing noises (sorry but it was Safa’s fault!)

It looked as if Cirque du Soleil were visiting!


This festival of aliveness was only the Beirut542 runners taking the area by storm. And what a party it was! We even had a guest of honor: Mrs. May El Khalil herself.


The car squad gave us a push as they invaded the streets with their good humor and their smiles but once they disappeared from view, it was just us and the road again.

“We don’t quit when we’re tired, we quit when we’re done. And the day’s not done yet!”

Steve Cook, Pro Athlete

Keep smiling

I will never forget a documentary I watched about acrobats and circus performers. They’re taught that in case of emergency whatever happens: first of all DON’T PANIC, and second of all KEEP SMILING. So that’s exactly what I did as I felt myself getting tired, I just imagined myself giving a performance. As I ran the first 15K coach Walid came up next to me and so I had to pick up my pace a bit just to feel confident in my stride. It felt good actually, and I discovered my perfect speed for the marathon.

After 24K I had started repeating a mantra, everyone says that running is like meditation right? But it wasn’t working though. I kept saying out loud “Don’t Panic, Keep smiling” but I was out of batteries just like the pink bunny from those commercials. I was hot and desperate as I watched the beach and imagined throwing myself in there when lo and behold a siren appeared next to me.


“What are you doing here?” I asked with a huge smile.

“Well I promised you didn’t I?” she answered as she bounced with energy. Safa had promised to run with me the last 5K. I had never wondered why actually, but it’s maybe because she knew that Moral is the best weapon against the kilometers. And what a weapon she is! She refused to leave any runners behind us and as we ran we sang (terribly) then as we arrived at the finish we cheered triumphantly.


But do you know what the best part is? When you keep digging inside yourself for strength, you end up finding something even more amazing… your humanity.

Pay it forward

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon”

Kathrine Switzer

And that’s why we must be grateful. The experience would not be complete if we didn’t share with others. This year Team Walid will be running for a cause: @FoodBlessed.

You can check out the charities that have partnered with BMA at www.beirutmarathon.org

And remember, you can always volunteer your time instead of your money.

No Stopping me Now | By Karen Al Harakeh
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Everybody on my team knows I like being challenged. I’m not one of the fast Pumas but I try to manage staying in between the other members of the team. Running was definitely not on my radar until I met one of my good friends Reem who was a member in Beirut542 last year. She suggested I join the Group maybe I’ll get past my smoking addiction. Sometimes, you take decisions not knowing where they take you. You might result in doubting yourself when you least know it. This is actually what happened to me in the last 28km run.

Pre- 28KM

Let me start by telling you what happened the week of the 28km run. It all started when one of my friends shed an eye on my running form. ‘Karen, you hop more than you run’. I took that into account and decided to work on my running form on an easy 8km run in Horsh Beirut.

Working on my form lead me to increase my speed with more than a km/h. I honestly didn’t know I could run that fast with less effort for the whole 8 km. I was happy, I knew I could run faster and decided to focus again on my form during the long run.

One Good pace

Sunday came and I was so excited, maybe more motivated than the first 7km run. We stood at the beginning of the run and May like always said ‘Karroun, see you at the finish line’. We started running and my pace was 6:15, which was far beyond my usual pace. I focused on my form in order to maintain my pace and it worked for me for the first 7-8 km. It didn’t last long when I felt a slight pain in my foot. Pain that was new to me. I slowed down and my Teammate Cass caught up with me with one sentence ‘I told you not to get too excited with your new pace’ :D. It wasn’t me getting too excited, I wasn’t even tired, my breathing was still perfect and for the first time I wasn’t doubting myself from the beginning of the run.


I continued running with Cass with the pain propagating through my left foot one part at a time while Cass was by my side cheering me up trying to help me forget about the pain and finishing the run until the 13th km when I forced Cass to leave me because I was affecting her pace with my pain. a km later Tarek (Team George) i.e. another good friend of mine was on the bike checking on his team and coming to me to give me my gel and Gatorade. Tarek helps me a lot through my runs. He’s actually been through my pain and ended up injured badly. He came to me with his cute little smile ‘Karroun shol ossa?? why are you slowing down’. ‘Tarek I’m in severe pain, my left leg is numb and I can’t run anymore’. He knows that pain, and he didn’t want me to injure myself further so he didn’t push me to keep running.

Giving Up..NOT

It all came down to this: I was giving up for a split of a second when I asked Tarek to give me my banana bag and call Safa or Albert to come pick me up because I couldn’t handle the pain. He silently gave me the bag and told me to calm down.

I was shivering. I wasn’t able to tie the bag on my waist when I shouted ‘Tarek why did you let me do that, take it I don’t want it. I’m going to continue. I’m not going to stop even if I’m going to walk the rest of the run’. I threw the bag and started a slight jog until I reached the 16th km when I saw Coach Ali. ‘Karen are you okay????’. ’No coach I’m not’ I replied but I kept my slight jog. Ali went off at first but then I saw him coming back towards me after a few minutes.


‘Karen what’s wrong, your face seems fine and your breathing is still perfect so tell me what’s wrong’ he said. ‘I can’t feel my left foot but I’m not going to stop’. Ali gave me that famous funny look of his and replied ‘Okay, Ana ma3ik sho baddik na3mol’ and that’s when we started walking again. My whole team was ahead of me and I was last. They were quite far and I honestly didn’t know if I could reach any of them. A km later something popped into my head and I said ‘Ali, let’s do intervals. I came to run and I’m not tired. Let’s run until my leg fails me, then we’ll walk till the finish line.’ Ali looked at me surprised ‘Karen, 3am timza7e???’. ‘No coach I want to run; I came to run’. so we started with the intervals. one interval at a time and shockingly I was getting closer to my teammates. First one I saw was Elias, who was also struggling and in pain. Ironically, we dragged him into our intervals. Every time I got tired from pacing I would stop and put my hand on Ali’s shoulder. ‘This is what Saria does when she’s tired’ he said. I was happy I was running even with the pain setting new targets once the last was done – there’s was plenty of time to set targets “28km”J. we kept going until we had a km ahead of us when I saw Safa cheering me up ‘Yalla Champ’.


Best Feeling EVER

The best feeling was when I saw my teammates worried about me because I took too long to finish the run. I had passed the entry of Pangea, but I still had 200 meters to reach them. Knowing I had completed my 28km I started walking. However, Maya and Cass ran towards me yelling: “Finish those last 200 meters, bala ghenej.” You’d think I’d be too tired to smile but at that moment I gave it my best, most genuine smile. I did it. I was on the edge of giving up but I didn’t. Doubt didn’t stop me. Pain didn’t stop me. I had the courage to finish the run even when others decided to quit. I knew if I had stopped at the 14th km that would have been the end of my journey but I didn’t. My pride was overwhelming. I did it. Nothing is going to stop me now!