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.

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.

 

 

Edwin Kibet Kiptoo RUNS BLOM BANK BEIRUT MARATHON
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Edwin Kibet Kiptoo To Defend Blom Bank Beirut Marathon

It was an enormous surprise when Kenya’s Edwin Kibet Kiptoo won the Blom Bank Beirut Marathon a year ago but his victory in this IAAF Silver Label race blew his anonymity completely out of the water.

 

The 29 year old will now bear the pressure of being the defending champion when he returns to the Lebanese capital on November 12th for the 15th edition of this race.

“I remember something big,” he says of his initial trip to Beirut. “I didn’t expect to win the race, so, when I think back to Beirut, I just remember a big victory in my running career.

 

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“It was a highlight in my running career, a day that I won’t forget in my life. I believe that when you train hard and are disciplined in all that you are doing in your daily life, you will get victories. I believe that being the boss over your own life will make you reach far.”

 

After a third-place finish at the 2016 Brighton Marathon, a race in which he set his personal best time of 2:11:29, he turned his attention to a an autumn marathon accepting an invitation to race Beirut. But the unseasonably warm day, 25 Celsius with no cloud cover, coupled with a difficult course meant his winning time was ‘only’ 2:13:19.

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Recent changes to the course, including the removal of a lengthy and stamina-testing 14% climb along the Mediterranean coast, will certainly help this year’s field challenge the event record of 2:11:04 set by Jackson Limo in 2015. Certainly, Kiptoo believes he is up to the task.

 

He reveals his training has been going extremely well and he can certainly point to some fine results which have boosted his confidence. He won the Luxembourg Night Marathon on May 27th and then finished second in the Hamburg Half Marathon. More recently he came close to beating his personal best half marathon time of 60:11.

“My training this year had been going very well. On October 1st I won the Breda half marathon in 60:42,” he declares. “I feel the body is still strong and I was fresh when I finished the race. I am now counting down the weeks and doing my last part of the training towards Beirut. I am happy to defend my title.”

 

 

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“My goal is to improve my time and also to retain my position of last year. Though I have pressure as defending champion, I know I can make it.”

Represented by the Dutch agency, Volare Sports, he trains in Iten, Kenya with a talented group of marathoners known as Mwisho wa Lami. The group includes Wilson Kipsang the former world record holder (2:02:23 best) and John Komen. The latter has a personal best of 2:07:13 a time that Kiptoo would certainly like to beat one day.

 

The Beirut Marathon now in its 15th year was founded by May El Khalil who remains Chairperson of the organization.

 

Ms. El Khalil was hit by a truck while out running 20 years ago and while enduring a lengthy hospital stay she conceived the idea of having an elite world class marathon in the Lebanese capital. World marathon record holders Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia), Paula Radcliffe (Great Britain) as well as Lord Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF have attended the marathon over the past three years an indication that interest in the event is growing at a phenomenal rate.

 

If Kiptoo were to win this year he would be the first man to repeat as Beirut Marathon champion since Ethiopia’s Mohammed Temam in 2010. Clearly, the $15,000 USD first place prize money would come in handy to a man nearing the end of his career. He has reasons to invest money earned through his racing.

 

“I am married and blessed with one son. His name is Kiplimo,” Kiptoo explains. “We live in Iten. I like staying with my family and spend time with them. I don’t travel mostly, unless I have a mission, like going to races.”

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As the Blom Bank Beirut Marathon fast approaches the excitement builds. There is a new and faster course for the athletes to tackle but will there be a new men’s champion or can Edwin Kiptoo repeat? It will surely take an incredible performance to deny him.

 

By Paul Gains

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.

WHY A MARATHON (1)

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