Dear 542 | by Caroline Zakka
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Hello runners, worriers, fighters,

I know you just like you know me. I see you behind your smiles and the smell of deep heat and biofreeze :)

I know what you’re thinking, I know how hard you’re training, and I know how you feel. It’s easy for me now to recognize you because I was you.

We’re the sun chasers, the road runners, the early risers, the pain ignorers (is that a word??)

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If you met me a year ago, just like you I wasn’t always sure of what I was doing. Someone had told me I’d better just run for fun and forget the marathon because it’s too hard. Someone else even told me that I wasn’t fit enough to complete such a challenge. My own demons also got me discouraged as a shin splint left me helpless for weeks, unable to put on my favorite neon running shoes.

But while I kept running, I always thought of my future: what would my marathoner self say to me in a year?

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A year ago I went to bed dreading the ring of the alarm. Now I wake up before the alarm and turn it off while singing “Good morning sunshine”.

A year ago I would be worried of thirst on the run, grabbing bottles left and right at water stations. Now I just enjoy a small sip while I share what I have with my running buddy.

A year ago I discovered what it meant to be so tired you can’t sleep. Now I know that a cold shower is better than sleep!

A year ago I felt guilty for not seeing my friends, having to ditch them for running training. Now I have friends who understand what it means to honor my commitments.

A year ago when I talked of travel, I imagined sunny beaches and lazy afternoons. Now I imagine straight long roads for a steady pace, and optimal racing conditions to beat my PB.

A year ago I was easily agitated and hesitant. Now I am relaxed and self-assured.

A year ago when someone told me they ran a marathon, I thought what a weird individual. Now I know they must be the most focused and determined person.

Because a year ago I didn’t know what running a marathon was.

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It’s like nothing else you will ever do in your whole life. It’s the best thing you will ever do for yourself.

Even though my 542 coach said I could do it (thanks coach Walid), even though statistics said I could do it (thanks 542), I didn’t believe it until I did it. And now I’m telling you, you can do it!

Running a marathon will not only change your body, endurance and strength- it will change your brain structure and the way you deal with everything in life…

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The impossible will be possible. A year from now, I promise you, you will feel it too.

You will know what it means to be 542.

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So cheers to you, the real you whom you haven’t met yet. Cheers to the first time you will meet yourself when you cross the 42k finish line.

Hello! I’ll be there waiting for you.

 

 

The Love to Live | By Ruby Chbeir
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Beautiful 542 people,
We ought to be so So proud of ourselves, not hard on ourselves..

Because we live in a country that keeps us uncertain, agitated, stressed, in a constant race against time or political events.
Compared to runners from Europe and the developed world, well..
We have very few or no green, vast spaces dedicated to runners, their safety and their well-being and health. We run alongside cars and burned fuels;

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Yet,
We committed: we run, train, laugh, and sweat despite the toughest life conditions and probably underpaid pays at our workplaces;

We committed and we run every training, despite life’s stress, from traffic to Commuting from far regions at our own costs and time;

 We run, train, laugh together and motivate one another every time , even though each one of us is probably similarly struggling to keep our family well-off and happy, in this controversial country.

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However, Our beauty, the beauty of being here, now, is :
In Lebanon, it’s not just about the clean air and the vast fields.. it’s Us, the “people”, who share common values, the love to really ” live”.

From wherever we come in Lebanon, We share the exact same concerns, stress, burdens, and we share the same love to socialize, laugh, make friends, open up, meet others, share a common cause and push one another…don’t we?

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 I was abroad for a while… all there was however, most of the time, was big (really big) green fields, places that make you feel well taken care of – yea , they do; but something else was always missing ..

There was nothing like you people- who could make a normal place/ location/ sidewalk, one of the best experiences and places to spend the eve every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday:)

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To the most beautiful People i’m still meeting every time:

*Please Be proud of You*

Hats off to your commitment,
to all the effort you are putting in,

whether you started from 0 or 5 or 10, to “hero” is where we all already are.

 

WHY A MARATHON | By Mohamad Mawas
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This is the Story of 542er Mohamad Mawas. In his own words, Mawas explains the challenges he faced on the run, his short-lived running career and his reason to take on the marathon challenge and  the commitment  to 5 months of training for the gruesome distance with 542 coach Mustafa Ahmed.

YOUNG HUMAN, OLD RUNNER

My name is Mohamad Mawas. I’m a young human yet an old runner. See, ever since the launch of the Beirut marathon back in 2003 I never failed to participate. Whether it was a 5 kilometer race or 10 kilometer fun run, I just never missed that day. In 2008 I took things a bit more seriously  and decided to do a better time in the 10k race and so I did. Ever since that day I discovered a passion for this sport that I knew nothing about. Since 2008, I started putting on my running shoes every few days at 6 am and simply hit the road. Sunday runs where the most special ones as they became a ritual no matter how hard Saturday night was.  I started hitting the track, doing laps, intervals, and basically started sprinting. I loved the speed, the explosiveness, it simply felt great. After one month of going to the track, I was spotted by one of the Lebanese track and field clubs where I was asked if I was training with a club. Days later I was admitted to that club and was assigned to a coach. So, that was my life basically everyday.  I used to finish school, head to the sports city stadium, have my sandwich, do my homework, and begin training.

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CHALLENGES AHEAD

The season kicked off, I started racing every month, not missing any track event or road race. I was a mid-distance runner. I was acceptable on the 200m, 1500m, and 5k distances. As years passed by, I faced the injury of my life unfortunately. I was diagnosed with an intestinal bowl syndrome which lead to severe blood loss and internal inflammation. It was the worst thing that could happen to me yet. I lost weight badly, gained again in water due to medication, but mainly I lost my form. Although I was, in my mind, ready for a comeback, I failed. The symptoms reoccurred. I lost blood again, and had internal damages. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to my running career. I was let off by the team as I am no longer of use in providing results. Track and field was no longer my escape so I went back to road running . Unfortunately again, this time my lungs were hit with an inflammation and suddenly I became asthmatic. I was banned from sports and mainly running for at least a year. I never listened, I went back a month later to the track and fell from jogging the first lap. I came back the second day did 2 laps, and fell again. This continued for a few months until I decided to register for a race at my own health expense without informing my coach. Race day came, February the 23rd 2012. I invited all my friends as I needed all the support I can get. The race started, it was all going well. I was able to maintain second place until the last 400m stretch were my body pulled me back till I collapsed at the finish line finishing in 6th. I woke up minutes later to find myself surrounded by 8 of my friends cheering me on. I did not win the race of course, but I won myself back. My coach saw me after the race and told me great job, yet I should keep it easy. Summer came by and I maintained a regular easy training on my own.

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LAU was next. During the fall of 2013, I went to the director of the athletics office and asked whether they have track team or not. He said no so I told him I’ll make one. Weeks passed by and I kept my word. I gathered up 5 students and a staff member and registered us for the Beirut marathon 42k relay race. We trained a couple of times and took part. We received 4th place in our category clocking 3 hours 36 minutes which wasn’t so bad for a group of first timers. Although the team wasn’t official, we did manage to grab some attention. The team grew month after month until we were 10 students in total. Our first win was in the Naqoura 2014 10k race were one of our runners managed to win 1st in his category and that’s how it started. We never missed a podium in a road race or track event after that until now. I was put as the captain/coach of my team in LAU and the success continued.

 

NOTHING CAN HOLD ME BACK

We grew year by year winning 2nd place in the Beirut marathon 2014 42k relay category clocking 3 hours 9 minutes. The team now is of 20 members and always in training. In the summer of 2015 my medical condition relapsed but this time my kidney got hit. I was hospitalized for a week and literally had no chance of getting back on the road. Yet of course, I didn’t listen and went back to running a month later aiming for a first place in the Beirut marathon 42k relay. November came and I was determined as ever. We won 1st place clocking 2 hours 54 minutes taking on the time record for our category. It was beautiful. My body got used to this pace and I just couldn’t stop running. We had an excellent season that year and some excellent runners too.

WHY A MARATHON (3)

In the 2016 Beirut marathon relay we managed to win 1st place again clocking 2 hours 50 minutes beating our own time record! And later on the 2016-2017 season, we didn’t miss a 1st place podium in all local races. I wasn’t theone winning, it was the team. Beautiful individual efforts. So here we are in summer of 2017 preparing for the 2017-2018 season starting with the Beirut marathon in November 12. I joined the 542 team and challenged myself to run the full marathon on my own not in a relay, but alone. It’s hard I have to admit that. I push myself in training as if it were a race.

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WHY A MARATHON?

So why a marathon? You see, all my life I’ve been living up to expectations. To limits beyond my capabilities. I always felt the need to perform more, to give more, and to show more even if it was on the expense of myself. For instance, I’m expected to run the full marathon on my own this November, and not only that, I’m expected to run it well. Looking back at my medical history, let’s just hope I finish it and that’s what I’m aiming for knowing that I probably could push harder. I’m running for myself this November, I’m running to show myself that I can simply do it. Passion, love, support, conflicts, and desire, this is what sports is all about, it’s a life package. I’m running to show my mother that I’m strong enough to be on my own physically, I’m running because it’s the only thing that never lets me down in my life despite the ups and downs, I’m running because I’m in love, in love with a never ending run because the road will eventually finish. I’m running because the Beirut marathon grew in me since I was a kid. I’m running because I know that without this sport in my life I wouldn’t have been where I am today.

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I’m running because I want to be able to tell myself and say that I am a marathoner and not just a runner.

MOU | BEIRUT AND LIMASSOL MARATHON
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 In an effort to grow the running community and to bring people together through the sport of running, the Beirut Marathon and OPAP Limassol Marathon GSO organizing committees signed a partnership agreement.

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The Memorandum of Agreement signed entitles both entities to promote for their respective marathons, it also allows for exchange of logistics expertise in organizing road running events.

BEIRUT

 

Mr. Spyros Spyrou, GM of OPAP Limassol Marathon GSO, believes that partnering with Beirut Marathon is crucial to develop relationships with other events and share practices and experience in order to become better; ” We are looking forward to develop and grow this cooperation and expect the best of results for both parties”, confirms Mr. Spyrou.

Reiterating Mr. Spyrou’s words, President May El Khalil welcomed the partnership withOPAP Limassol Marathon GSO following a trip the Beirut Marathon team took earlier this year to attend the OPAP Limassol Marathon GSO on the 17th and 19th of March 2017. The energy of the runners was unmatched and she could feel the similarities in the welcoming Mediterranean vibe. “I believe that Runners of Cyprus would very much love to run Beirut. Same goes to runners of Lebanon. Distance Running is growing and we would love to create this close connection for runners to be able to run the distance in nearby destinations where they would feel supported and well received by the organizing committee.

BEIRUT (1)

For its 15 edition, and to commemorate this newly founded partnership, the OPAPLimassol Marathon GSO team is targeting the runners of Cyprus, encouraging them to sign up and take part in BLOM BANK Beirut Marathon This November 12. Following up the BLOM BANK Beirut Marathon, the OPAP Limassol Marathon GSO will take place on the 17th and 18th of March 2018, where the team of Beirut Marathon and the Lebanese running community will be welcomed!

Because when it’s about running for peace, the story becomes bigger than just running, it’s an experience of a lifetime.

WHY I RUN | By Zeinab Hammoud
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I certainly don’t run to shed off the pizza I binged on last night, if that is what you’re thinking.

Although, it certainly does help.

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I run because it makes me feel stable, mentally, physically and emotionally.

I run because it gives me a sense of belonging. A belonging to a family and a belonging to myself.

I run because I can, because I feel that my legs were born to move at a faster pace than walking.

I run because I love smiling at other runners passing by.

I run because there is no better feeling than looking straight into the sky only to get that overwhelming sense of freedom.

I run because it empowers me as a human, a citizen in Lebanon and most importantly as the woman I have become throughout the years.

But still.

That is not quite the reason why I run as opposed to other sports I do such as kickboxing, weight lifting or swimming.

I will try and explain to you, fellow runner or potential runner, the reason I run.

See as a kid, I was extremely hyper, I would run around and play in the streets of Africa or in the corners of Beirut with other children that I never met before.

I would feel so care free and happy. I wouldn’t judge other children, or ask them about their ethnicity or religion or orientations. We would just play, laugh and then go back home. No questions asked, no judgements made.

Those kids and I were connected solely by our love to play outdoors.

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 However, as I grew up, the happy care free moments lessened, and that hyper happy little girl I once was stopped being who I became. Slowly the child inside of me became a separate entity that was doomed to fade away.

At some point between all the incidents that come with life, I lost the little happy girl I was.

 

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One day, I signed up for a training program called 542. I went on a run. One run after another, I started falling in love with my strides, the people running with me, the volunteer coaches,  the streets and the blue skies.

I laughed as I ran, so happy and care free!  I found that little girl I once lost in the midst of life.

I found her while running, with the support of other beautiful runners.

I kept running until the streets became my playground and those beautiful smiley runners became the little children, I once played with.

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We ran together, care free and happy just like the little children we thought we weren’t anymore.

I never cared about my pace or the distance I ran or even reaching the finish line.

I only cared about the smiles and laughs and the satisfaction I got after every run I completed.

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Now, as I found that little girl inside of me, I also found my escape, or as I like to put it: “I found my happy place”.

When I am angry or sad or just dealing with life, I close my eyes and just imagine myself running. Wouldn’t be amazing if each one of us had their own happy place?

What if your happy place is also running? Would you want to miss the chance of knowing because you are afraid you might run out of breath? You won’t, trust me. I didn’t, and if I didn’t, you sure wont too!

 

THE WOMEN’S RACE:

Now let me tell you why the women’s race in specific means a lot to me.

The first 10KM I ever ran was at the Beirut Marathon women’s race.

I wasn’t a runner then and I remember clearly that I went out of breath 10 minutes into the race, but I kept going because of the incredible energy and support I got from other fellow women. They empowered me, encouraged me and showed me lots of love and motivation. “YOU CAN”,  they said. “Finish What you started”.

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The woman race is a great opportunity for non-runners to start running , and it is a great opportunity for runners to encourage other women to run.

WHY? Because it makes us stronger women, stronger mothers, stronger sisters and stronger leaders.

It empowers young girls like myself to take a step forward.

It empowers strong women like my mother to run the streets of a city care free.

It lets her take some time off and go on a run. It allows her to be a little selfish because she deserves it.

It lets the women of my country find their happy place just like I did.

Every run makes you stronger, fiercer, better!

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So, go on a run, cross the finish line or don’t cross it, but take a step forward and make yourself a stronger woman.

Don’t worry about your pace, your stamina or your endurance, don’t worry about anything what so ever. The point is not to worry. Your endurance will improve with every run as your mental state will improve with every run.

Don’t be afraid. We are all here to support you, to run with you until your brain forgets and your body remembers.

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Do yourself a favor, go on a run. This is your chance to try something new, something different.

 and Know that, I’m with you  أنا_معكي#