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“I’m quitting! This half-marathon was a mistake, getting into running was a mistake!”

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I shouted to my brother on the phone when I hit the wall at the 17th km of last year’s Tripoli’s half marathon. “No more boring long runs, no more obsession with the demanding running lifestyle, no more trying to be something that I am just… That I am just not!” The truth is, I wasn’t really tired. I just didn’t want to do this anymore. Reading this, you would think I was a newcomer to the running field. Well, you would be wrong. I was already a two-time marathoner. In fact, and just about 3 weeks before, I had completed the Rotterdam marathon with a new personal best. But sadly, everything I was throwing at my body by force was coming back to me with interest. And voices inside of my head kept on repeating: I hate running with dark passion!

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The period that followed the half-marathon wasn’t any easier to deal with. In fact, a lot had changed since I first started running by joining the third edition of the 542 program in 2016. Those glory days included me completing two full marathons in Beirut and Rotterdam as well as three half marathons in a period of six months. And a lot of reasons that pushed me to hang on to running were becoming the reasons I was slowly letting go of the sport. Injuries and unfortunate personal reasons had pushed some of my closest running buddies away from running and the team. And for the two unique times I felt like getting back on track in the summer, the universe gifted me with a truly terrible running pace, and two consecutive heat strokes. I was finally convinced that it was about time to hang my running shoes for good.

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It didn’t take long before I was back to my sedentary lifestyle. In fact, I had just started a new (and my first ever) job, and while things didn’t really pick up as desired at first, I relied on a few tennis practices to get me through this transitional phase. However, I knew it was all about to change when a friend of mine approached me for suggestions as she was chasing a new challenge in her life. Without second thoughts, the 542 program was my option to her. After all, this whole marathon experience was life-changing for me. Soon after, my cousin who had already signed up for the program asked me if I could pace her in the 4th long run of the season. That day, I was running at a much slower pace than my usual. However, with every drop of sweat going down my face, everything was coming back to me: the highs which complemented every increase in the mileage, the lows that escorted all the sacrifices I had to make for this commitment, the fun and the friendships I developed on the streets and pavements of Beirut, the finish line glory… In the end, and for once, it was something that I wasn’t doing for anyone else; I was doing it just for me. And here it hit me:

 

Am I really ready to give up on what defined me for almost a year now and gave me the greatest sense of achievement in life?
Am I really ready to give up on what put my tennis comeback at stake?
Am I really ready to give up on what made me acknowledge for the first time that giving up is never an option?

No, not this time.

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That run made me realize that there was so much more to running than just pace, speed and number of races. I became too obsessed with my performance lately that I stopped listening to my body and took this whole issue way too far. I forgot the fun of it; that the true achievement lies in completing the distance or even better, helping someone else complete it. I woke up the next day at 4:30 am, left my Garmin at home, and went on what turned out to be the most liberating 10 km I have ever completed. Soon after, I found myself regularly back to my Sunday long run rituals. Throughout the journey, two key people were present by my side: Claudia, with whom I ran every single step of the 42.195km in Rotterdam and who, just like me, had some motivational struggles in the beginning, and Ghaith, a co-worker in the company I had just started working for and who was looking to complete his first marathon (we ended up running the whole distance together.) Because of those two people, the journey this year was second to none.

 

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All of us have had moments in our lives where we felt the need to give up and walk away. The old days were amazing but nobody said the upcoming ones weren’t going to be any better. And for something to be reborn there has to be an acknowledgement of something that died. You just need to let go and believe that you can do it no matter what. Sometimes, what you really need is a break to help you look at the issue from a whole new perspective. Well, a break and maybe a small kick in the butt! On November 12,

2017, I became a three-time marathoner (in less than 1 calendar year). And I definitely haven’t peaked yet. I am not even close to my peaking.
Dear Europe, I’ll be rocking your streets in 2018 while breaking the 4-hour mark on the clock. Watch me!

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