For Immediate Release
October 23, 2012
Contact: Lana Aoude
Phone: +961 365 8396
BEIRUT — In its thirteen year history the Beirut Marathon has repeatedly proven itself a beacon of hope and inspiration in the strife torn Middle East. Unbeknownst to many the event has grown to include more than 37,000 runners and was recently awarded Silver Label status by the IAAF, athletics’ global governing body.
Now the organisers are delighted to receive world record holder Paula Radcliffe at this year’s event, set for November 8th.
The British holder of the world marathon record of 2:15:25, a time which has confounded experts ever since she recorded it in the 2003 London Marathon, has agreed to serve an ambassadorial role in the capital of Lebanon.
“I am looking forward to visiting a country I have never been to before and I am looking forward to trying to help make a tiny bit of difference in a country that needs a difference to be made,” says the now retired 41-year-old superstar.
“I am very lucky to go to different mass running events around the world and they are different in each country. They are all very special and unique in their own way. And it’s nice to be able to do that and to experience a bit of the culture in that country and learn about it at the same time you are there.”
Radcliffe, who also owns the three fastest marathon performances of all time as well as the current world 10k record (30:21), expects to be kept very busy and relishes the opportunity of taking advantage of her first visit to Lebanon.
Amongst the events on her itinerary are speeches she will deliver at Lebanese American University on the Power of Running For Cause and at Beirut Arab University. She will take part in the Move4Good Forum at BAU, a storytelling platform that showcases stories of people who use sports as a means to move for the good of their wellbeing, their families and communities.
Radcliffe is also looking forward to meeting with the children of Syrian refugees currently living in the Lebanese capital. A three-time winner of both the London and New York marathons, she is also a mother of two young children herself, and is particularly warm to this event.
“I think that is going to be really important. I wanted to be able to take some stuff along to the kids. My kids grow out of things and they wanted to send stuff like when I go to Kenya and take things for kids there,” Radcliffe declares. “I still think it’s important to be able to experience that myself and to support as much as possible and come back to explain to children so they learn what is going on around the world and what can be done to make it a better place for everybody.”
Radcliffe marked her retirement from competitive athletics with a London Marathon appearance this past April 26. Taking her place amongst the masses rather than the elites, she took a largely celebratory run around the course finishing in 2:36:55. The reception she was handed by the massive crowd lining the course brought her to tears she admits.
“I tried to prepare myself in advance for the emotional impact of what it might be like and I was nowhere near,” she remembers fondly. “It was, way, way way above that.
“During the race I was kind of able to keep control of it pretty well until I came onto the Embarkment at around 23 and a half miles. There was a big sign giving messages to the runners and as I came out of the tunnel it read, in big letters, “Thank You Paula We Will Miss you.” And then I thought ‘oh no, I am going to cry now.
“Then coming down Bird Cage Walk, in front of the Palace, I wanted to finish. I was tired by that point as well but I also didn’t want to because it was just so special and I thought I have never experienced that before and I will never again. I wanted to savour it as much as possible.”
Radcliffe admits that she no longer runs to a clock choosing instead to run for as long as she feels like running. And she is grateful that unlike many other elite runners in retirement her body allows her to get out and run albeit at less stressful levels on a regular basis.
In Beirut she is scheduled to take part in a 3 kilometre run with a group called Beirut 542, a community based initiative helping first time marathoners enjoy success. No doubt she will squeeze in some longer runs when she sees the chance. At the start of the marathon she will also address the runners.
The addition of the women’s world record holder is undoubtedly a feather in the cap for race organisers. A year ago Haile Gebrselassie performed similar duties in Beirut. And with world class athletes beginning to recognize the race as a viable destination for competition and for a healthy prize money structure, the future bodes well for this jewel of the Mediterranean.
By Paul Gains for the Banque du Liban Beirut Marathon