Say What? A Marathon? | By Caroline Zakka
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Today I start a new life, just like the entire Beirut542 runners do.

Today I am a new person, we all are. Stronger, smarter, faster…we just ran a marathon.

Today I know what real friendships are made of: pain, laughter, intimacy, encouragement, support.

Today I know that this city is amazing when it’s not burdened with traffic and noise.

Today I know what it means to love unconditionally.

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42.195 kilometers is a labor of love. We all had our reason to run it, and we all found a new reason as we did. It’s to feel pride when I see Mhammad go further than he ever has before. It’s to shed a melancholic tear when people pointed to the sky and smiled at me, knowing they shared my memories.

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It’s to be thankful when Mariam saw me tired and took my hand. It’s to feel grateful when Rebecca ran with me the last 3k clapping and singing to encourage me. It’s to feel happy when I saw Mary at the finish line congratulating me on accomplishing my dream.

Unconditional love is to see Mrs. May el Khalil waiting with Team Walid until the last runner arrived.

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How can this be the hardest thing I ever did when it was so much fun? I was high-fiving Raffi, shouting at Karen, saluting Samer, calling out their names and sprinting to catch up to them. As I did this I was encouraging myself. As I shouted Don’t Stop I was telling myself not to stop.

How can any other experience compare to this achievement now that I know what it takes to do it? It takes courage, grits and determination that I found within myself. It takes a combination of energy gels, Gatorade and H2O that worked as a furnace in my belly, burning like a jet engine that fuelled me into Beast Mode. And I looked like a monkey while I ran! I looked like Phoebe when Rachel was ashamed to jog with her in the park! But I didn’t have time to think of how I looked, because I was on a mission. My mission was to accomplish this amazing journey that had started with a wish and with so many doubts…

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Is it possible that the marathon cured my shin splint? Well, I feel nothing. The 3 months pain is gone, in one day. Is it possible that the marathon shed all my doubts and misconceptions about life and how to live it? Because like a caterpillar blossoming from a cocoon, I feel it has given me wings. It has given me freedom: of mind, of body, freedom of will.

My friend Aziz who participates in Spartan races and who finished the marathon with a leg injury has become one of my inspirations. He says “The secret of life is happiness, and the secret of happiness is freedom”. Thanks Aziz, I think I understand it now…

Yes, today I am a different person because I know what the world can be: I know that with sportsmanship and dedication the world, society and communities can change and prosper abundantly. I know that the Beirut Marathon organization is the most important positive influencer on our country and I would like to thank you.

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Thank you Albert: you are the most amazing organizer/ care-taker :) . Thank you Safa: you are a fantastic combination of motivational speaker/ angel. Thank you coach Walid: you have done nothing put point to the stars and show us how to reach them.

Thank you Mrs. May el Khalil: you are the maker of dreams.

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Now You! What are You waiting for? Get up, get out, and go find your freedom. Just Go train and run a marathon, then see how it will be the beginning of your personal journey.

See you out there on the streets! I will recognize you if you point your finger to the sky, and you will recognize me because I will always be smiling :)

I am so proud to have been a part of this experience and now my only question is: how soon can we do it again?
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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!)

Mission Impossible | By Caroline Zakka
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With the end of September you can officially feel the magic in the air: Beirut Marathon season is here. You see runners everywhere around the city, you can hear the click of selfies around the new RUN signs and you can smell the minty coolness of pain relieving gels.

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Gangsta Squad | By Caroline Zakka
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Squad Style..

“You’re tough you know? You are now part of 3% of the population. The 3% Squad. Only so few have done what you’re doing and you’re not gona stop until you finish.”

As I limped on my left leg trying to forget the pain, Coach Walid spoke with his usual smile and good humor but this time his tone was more determined and categorical than ever. He continued: “If anyone says the opposite just tell them to Talk to the hand” Then he dropped the mic and got into his Purple Lamborghini.

The Search For Happiness | by Caroline Zakka
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My toes hurt. They’re tightly jammed into the front of my running shoes and every step makes my teeth cringe. I keep imagining Tom when his paws get caught in a mousetrap he set for Jerry. On top of that my phone feels heavy in my pocket and I regret not buying a fanny pack for my keys.

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At this rate I know I can’t catch up with the runners ahead of me but it’s only a few kilometers until we reach Zaytuna, so I try to think happy thoughts: