The Marathon Story | By Cassandra kfoury
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The tears wouldn’t stop even though it had ended. I was in the arms of Ali:

“You finished it why are you crying?” he asked in a very joyful voice.

I want my medal.” I managed to whisper between the cries.

He laughed so hard at that moment and went to get me the bronze piece of accessory. In the real world, it had no significant value but to me it was my proof, a means of validation. I ran 42.195 kilometers in less than the seven hours limit.

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After a sleepless night, I woke up on Sunday November 13th 2016 at 5 a.m. just like I had been doing every Sunday for the past 4 month. Today was the big day. I couldn’t believe that when I first joined the 542 training program, I thought a marathon was 10 kilometers – the distance I was aiming to be able to run. I could barely jog from my room to the kitchen at that time. But then here I was putting on my tights, my orange 542 shirt and my first ever running shoes.

Are you ready?” asked Karen, my running buddy while we were goofing around at the starting line. She was scared, I guess we all were. We agreed to do this together and I thought we would.

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I just smiled at her and kept dancing and singing with the pre-marathon entertainments. A few fleeting moments and the race had begun. A marathon isn’t really a race, however, it takes endurance rather than speed and so we were managing our pace at a very slow one for the first half of it. Karen and I were having our regular small talks. When the conversation got a little tiring on our breath, we would each enjoy our playlists, customized specifically for this big day. The parades and cheering stations were super encouraging and we would stop for quick pictures with them. I really wanted to enjoy this first of its kind experience. Making good memories out of it was all I really cared about. But then, it all went wrong. At 30 kilometers, my stomach started itching and my tears were rushing down my cheeks. Then, I would suddenly stop crying and start laughing like a complete crazy person. I had hit my wall. I lost control over myself and the pain was atrocious. Never had I ever felt something like this before, even though I ran for 36 kilometers in one of the trainings. To make things worse, I twisted my ankle and sprained it shortly after I had hit the wall. Karen couldn’t run next to me anymore, I was too slow so I asked her to leave. She did but asked a former runner, Fabienne, to finish the race by my side.

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You ran most of the distance, there’s only the seaside road, Mar Mikhael street and then the finish line” I said to myself. By the end of Bourj Hammoud I was nauseous however, and vomited, so much for my body helping me! But I did keep going, Fabienne was my co-pilot on the ride, holding my water, my gels and guiding my way.

“ Yalla khalsina, khaliya tensehib aam tetghandar, hayda ma esmo raked, badna neftah l tari2.” I heard someone screaming at me from his car. I got myself together and politely stated that I was going to finish the race as slowly as I needed to, and that he couldn’t do anything about it. Obviously, he left and the moment he did I burst into tears again- so much for trying to be tough. I had one more hour to run the last 6 kilometers, they felt like an eternity. My mind flew back to the old me, before I signed up for this training program. I was doing okay. However, something was missing: a sense of fulfillment. Once I was in the program I got to practice a sport I never thought I could take part in. I met some amazing people that gave me the motivation to keep running not only on the roads but also in my personal life. I never wanted to run a 42.195 km long marathon at first. When all of these thoughts were rambling through my head while I was in pain, I didn’t want to run it either. I was just doing it because I can, a motto I came to adapt in my life ever since that marathon “Do it cause you can.”

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“Cassandra hurry! You have 10 more minutes or you’ll be disqualified.” The words of my assistant coach Karim hit me suddenly. My whole body clinched, I was enduring so much suffering for the past 6 hours 50 minutes and wanted my medal. I had half a kilometer left. On my best day I would finish it in five minutes. I wasn’t even close to my best at that moment. But you just forget everything and transcend into a feelingless state where it’s only you and the road. I heard the cheering of my dear friends but all I could say was: “move out of my way” (sorry Claudia I forgot my manners). It all ended when the clock hit 6 hours 54 minutes 50 seconds with May Khalil (the BMA founder) holding my hand and crossing the finish line with me- the last finisher. And then I fell into my dearest coach Ali’s arms.

My marathon story isn’t the most pleasant one, to say the least. Yet, every time I think of it a smile draws itself on my face. I’m absolutely and completely in love with every bit of that once in a lifetime experience. I couldn’t explain how so much pain can cause so much pleasure at first. Now I know and that’s why I’m sharing it so that everyone preparing for it can know. The marathon isn’t a distance you run, it’s a feeling that builds up from the moment you start training for it, while you’re running it and forever onward. Feelings are everlasting. You might not feel it anymore but you most certainly remember it. The marathon feeling is so intense that you cannot but fall in love with it. On a last note, no matter how prepared you are, the marathon is something you cannot really be fully prepared for and that’s okay. Do it, cry if you need to, crawl if you must, finish it and then feel it.

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From Marathoner-to-be to Proud Cheerer | By Thouraya El Zougbi
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Growing up I was not the sporty kind. I simply hated PE classes and couldn’t run two steps without feeling that my heart was going to explode and my lungs would collapse. I was the give-me-a-book-and-leave-me-alone kinda kid.

However, age is a sly old thing. You don’t quite realize the magnitude of its slyness till you’re 35 and in need of a warm-up before getting out of bed every morning. That’s when I decided to challenge my body with a new athletic endeavor each Birthday. First it was a Zumba certification, then handstands, followed by headstands, and this year it was meant to be a marathon.

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So it was that I woke up two times a week before the crack of dawn to get ready for training and even earlier on Sundays to have enough time to drop off the kids at my Mother-in-law’s before the long runs. Slowly but surely my schedule started to revolve around trainings and recovery runs. Early bedtimes became a must so did mindful eating. Then it was researching the most nutritious ways to fuel those runs. I perfected making Peanut Butter energy balls for breakfast, my own electrolyte and turned to dates for running fuel.

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Unfortunately plans have been altered slightly with a stress fracture in my Tibia. Don’t feel sorry for me though because this only means I get to channel my energy into cheering. I know what it’s like to run those streets. I know what it’s like to push your body way past its comfort zone (actually you probably forgot what your comfort zone looks like now since you haven’t seen it in 4 months). I know what it’s like to want to give up. I know what it’s like to hear someone say “woooooohooooo” and feel your energy renewed. I know what it’s like to feel like your legs just can’t take it anymore and for someone to ask “are you okay?” to which you answer “yes” and your body believes you are. I will cheer and shout till I lose my voice until each one of my fellow 542ers crosses that finish line.

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I will be there at the start line to wish you all luck. I will be there along the course to cheer you on. And I will be there at the finish line for sweaty hugs. For it is through your running and through your resilient spirits that I have found joy on the streets of Beirut that are full of anger and have forgotten how to laugh.

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.

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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.

What Type of Running Buddy are you?
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Running is often a solo affair, a one-on-one with yourself and your thoughts. It’s your chance to connect both physically and emotionally with your energy; it’s the time when the amazing machine that is your body performs to its limits and takes you even further than you thought was possible. However, on some days, you may not feel like getting out and facing yourself, no matter how perfect your machine is. That’s when you need to choose a good running buddy, a fellow runner to enjoy the run together. 

Here are 6 types of running buddies we’ve met around the city