Ten Marathons in Memory of His Father
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Mo Dirani has been running 10 marathons in memory of his father. The 10th and final marathon will be in his father’s homeland, Lebanon, where he will be running the Beirut Marathon on November 13th, 2016.  Below in his voice, Mo shares his story with us. 

Ten marathons in memory of my father (Abdul Dirani, 11/11/37-10/01/13)

He tightened his grip on my foreman and looked at me with his defiant but surrendering eyes and asked for help. He could longer walk, almost out of breath and his muscles weakened. He fell into my arms. As I held back my tears I carried him to his hospital bed (less than 5 meters away) with such power to reassure him that he could rely on me.  That moment was to become the most defining point of my life.  The same young boy who would literally jump and yell to grab the attention of his father, who stood at an easy 6ft and was as handsome as one could be, is now carrying his father in his arms. From that defining day, my beautiful mother (our queen) and eleven siblings would only have two days left to spend with our king.

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A year and rivers of tears later, the loss and grief of Dad’s passing was still very strong. I could not tell a single story of my father without crying with great sadness. But I knew that it was time to control my thoughts, strengthen my body and keep dad’s legacy alive.  Being a reasonably fit gym and boxing guy, I thought I would join my friends at work for a weekly run. It was a stunning 10km route through the city and parks of Melbourne, Australia. The first run was incredibly humbling and tough, where I failed to run at their pace or make the distance. I think it was at the 5km point where I got a serious stitch that literally floored me. My friends rushed back to help, but of course I reassured them that I was okay and would see them at the finish line (a typical Lebanese thing to do).  I was in pain, exhausted and out of breath but giving up is just not part of my genetic makeup.

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Dad defied medical prognosis over and over again and battled the complications of a serious heart condition for over a decade. I was in awe of his unbeatable strength, endurance and resilience.  He had a will to survive, with a drive to be there for his family.  To truly keep my father’s legacy alive, I had to channel his energy into my every move. I stood up and finished the 10km run and decided that day (almost 2 years ago) that I would run a marathon in every city in Australia and finish with marathon number 10 in my father’s birth and now burial place, Lebanon. I am incredibly excited about running a marathon in Beirut. The Beirut Marathon Association is a great success story in itself and my father would be very proud of my involvement.

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There is one powerful vision I have of me sitting by my father’s grave (Kasarnaba, Lebanon) reminiscing on the journey, experiences and emotions of running these things and letting him know of my future plans (not more marathons, ha!). To those thinking of running a marathon or completing any other tough challenges, my humble advice is to have a clear vision and purpose and do not allow anyone to distract or discourage you.

Believe me, running one marathon was unfathomable to me, let alone ten. But self belief, perspective and determination go a long way. And as the late Muhammad Ali famously said, ‘Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them- a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.’

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Albert Cheaib | Meet the BMA TEAM
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 Meet the Beirut Marathon team

“The Beirut Marathon Association (BMA) would not be successful without the phenomenal team we have. This is why we decided it was time to create a “Meet the Team” section so you can all get familiar with our remarkable team members who make all our year-round activities possible.

#MeetTheTeam is a monthly blog post series dedicated to introduce the people who work behind scenes.

Meet Albert Cheaib

Today we would like to introduce you to the man who has been assisting in overseeing all our ongoing activities from concept to execution, our Race Coordinator, Albert Cheaib.

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Background

26 year old Albert grew up in Lebanon where he majored in Business Management at USEK before he headed to Universidad Europea de Madrid to received a Master degree in Sports Management.

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As you can imagine, Albert is an athletic guy. He’s passion mainly lies in football, which he professionally played for 4 years in the 2nd division and 2 years in the 1st division prior moving to Madrid to study. He also enjoys surfing, skiing, hiking, and table tennis.

 How did Albert join BMA?

Upon his return from Madrid, Albert was searching for an internship to increase his career experience. He decided to check if BMA were hiring since BMA is one of the few organizations in Lebanon to professionally work in sports. Albert checked the BMA website for any internship vacancies but only found volunteering opportunities, which he applied to nonetheless in order to get an interview.

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Once Albert was interviewed and shared his story and his passion for sports, he naturally was selected as a volunteer candidate, which isn’t what he was looking for – he wanted to be part of the BMA team.

A few days after the initial interview, he received a call to come in for an interview with our Race Director WissamTerro and he struck gold at the interview. Wissam was impressed by this young, dynamic, and determined man that he hired him as his assistant on the spot.

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 Highlights at BMA

Through his line of work, Albert gets the chance to meet a lot of inspirational people and network with some of the country’s biggest companies, which has gotten him quite a bit of exposure. Albert has been integrating his previous experiences and studies into BMA and his energy is constantly felt around our offices – and his big bright smile! He has so much potential that we love watching him grow within BMA and wholeheartedly give all he has.

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Kathia Rached | Up close and personal
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One afternoon in 2011, whilst Kathia Rached was driving, she heard a radio advertisement by Beirut Marathon Association (BMA). The ad was about training sessions for the upcoming Beirut Marathon. She picked up the phone and called up BMA…little did she know at the time that the call  she made was going to forever change her life.

How it all started
Kathia was leading a very normal life teaching Chemistry at school, she did not include exercise in her routine. When she heard that radio ad, she figured that she could start running with a group of professionals who could train her to do so the right way. BMA introduced her to Elite Running Club where Ali Kedami was the trainer. When Kathia started running, she found 2km to be extremely rigorous and difficult. Today she runs 100km on average every week and competes in ultra marathons.

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In 2011 BMA announced that they would send the fastest male and female first-time marathon runners to the Berlin Marathon. Kathia used this incentive as motivation to vigorously train. On the morning of 27 November 2011, she ran the Beirut Marathon and completed it in 3 hours and 47 minutes, an impressive time for an amateur runner taking part in their first marathon. Kathia won the ticket to fly and run the Berlin Marathon on 25 September 2011, she managed to break her previous record and registered 3 hours and 26 minutes which is her personal best time – and remains as her best time until today.

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From marathons to Ultra Marathons
While training for her first marathon, Kathia learnt about ultra marathons through her trainer, Ali, who has completed 7 ultra marathons. He told her that her persistence and devotion would help enable her become an ultra marathoner. Considering that breaking a marathon record is a lot more challenging, Kathia wanted a challenge that could get her results as a Lebanese, as a woman, and in which she could break barriers and records.

According to Kathia, Ultra marathons are extremely difficult and challenging but when you complete it and look back you feel really good about the accomplishments you achieved. Partaking takes a lot from a person physically, mentally and emotionally.

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While preparing for an ultra marathon one eats heaps of carbs and protein… and more carbs. Carbs are the essence of her diet. Naturally, hydration is also included. As for training, Kathia runs over 100km per week, which means she has to run 50 – 60km during the weekends. During the rest of the week she runs the remaining 40 – 50km in different methods, she would run on a sandy beach one day, or run an uphill the next, and so forth. It’s all about mixing it up.

Her biggest motivation is the support and encouragement she gets from her community, friends, family, and more. She was astonished by the amount of encouragement she kept receiving that it constantly keeps her going.

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Namibia Ultra | The Story
Kathia just recently completed the Namibia Ultra Marathon. The race that took 5 days kicked off with 215 competitors, 19 quit during the race, and 196 completed the ultra marathon. Kathia finished in 2nd place in the women category and 9th overall in the impressive time of 30 hours, 3 minutes, and 38 seconds.

According to Kathia the race was an extremely difficult and challenging one but also very beautiful. What made it less difficult was that she was doing extremely well which stopped her from quitting. The first 3 days she was in first place and on the 4th day, saving her energy for the 80km run on the 5th day, she dropped to 2nd place.

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On the first day of the race, Kathia crossed 37.3km with 37m of elevation in 3:38:20, the second day consisted of a 42km path with an elevation of 74m, she completed this stage in 5:22:27. On the 3rd day, she impressively completed 42km with an astonishing elevation of 1221 meters in 5:30:45. On the 4th day, Kathia completed the stage of 42km with an even steeper elevator of 2116 meters in 5:10:57!! An even much better time than the previous day (and is the stage where she has said she’s saved her energy). Day 5 was the ultimate and gruesome 80km stage that Kathia impressively completed in 9:15:19!

Her biggest motivation while racing was returning to Lebanon as a winner. After the 3rd day of the day, when she got thoughts to quit she’d think of how she’s in the top positions and how far she’s come, and how hard she’s trained – and the fact to return to Lebanon a winner – these thoughts kept her going.

Kathia absolutely loved the spirit of competition between herself and Jax Mariash Koudele. Jax finished the race in first place and the two of pushed each other to their best and maximum throughout the race. When they reached the finishing line, they ended up hugging each other and cheering for each other. Sportsmanship at it’s finest.

Kathia ran for Heartbeat, an NGO whose mission is to tread children suffering from heart disease. Kathia really feels strongly and passionately about this NGO since she feels the children who are born with heart defects were born into the world this way and neither they nor their families had a choice and are suffering.

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The Choices we make, make us the people we are
Little did Kathia know when she picked up the phone to call BMA in 2011, that her life was going to change. Through running, Kathia has become a champion and a role model from everyone. Kathia’s entire lifestyle has changed to a much more healthier lifestyle in which her perspective of life has also transformed into a positive one.

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A firm believer in taking action, Kathia emphasizes the importance of a person making a choice. She constantly reinforces that she chose to start running, she chose to compete in a marathon, she chose to compete in ultra marathons, she chose not to quit, and she chooses to continue competing for as long as she’s capable of competing.

For Kathia, the phrase “I can’t” does not exist. The only people who use that phrase are those who don’t want to develop. She adds that Lebanese women aren’t less than women anywhere else in the word. “We’re smart, intelligent women who are capable of finding solutions through running, we run to feel better – everything changes within a girl’s life through running.” She couldn’t run 2km and now runs 250km per week with results, rank, podium, and medals. Don’t say I can’t.

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Kathia emphasizes that BMA was the essence of her motivation. May El Khalil is an inspiration and motivation for anyone. BMA has constantly provided her with emotional and sometimes financial support. BMA was one of her sponsors in Gobi alongside main sponsor Hi-Tec Fitness and supporter World runner. She added that anytime BMA feels they can support her, they do. BMA has played a big role in her running career.

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What’s next for Kathia?
Kathia is now qualified to run in the Antartica ultra marathon in the South Pole which is taking place on November 18th. This ultra marathon is a lot more difficult than the previous 2 ultra marathons she competed in since the conditions will be rather gruesome. The 250km race is truly a genuine and formidable challenge with conditions comprising of snow and ice throughout, with average windchill temperatures of -25C and at an altitude of over 700m throughout – these are conditions in which the participants will have to also occasionally sleep in.

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Since running in sub zero temperatures is even more challenging, Kathia is going to initiate more strenuous and vigorous training in preparation.  In a couple of weeks she will start training at high altitudes in the mountains to prepare so she could train in lower oxygen levels, and she will be tying weight to her body, and carrying weights on her back in preparation for the arduous challenge. Also worth mentioning, is the fact that Kathia will be running the Beirut Marathon the day prior to her departure!!

We wish Kathia the best of luck and we will be keeping an eye out to what we expect to be major achievements!!

UPDATE: Kathia Rashed ran the Beirut Marathon on Nov 13 and completed the 250Km Ultra. She finished 3rd female overall in the last desert Antarctica Ultra marathon.
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Have You Met the Mrouehs?
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Around 5 years ago, brothers Moustapha and Mazen Mroueh were your average Joes. They were out of shape, and they certainly did not have drawers and walls flooded with medals and trophies.

Today, the Mroueh brothers hold the World Guinness Record for “Most Siblings to Complete a Marathon on Each Continent”

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How did that happen?
The brothers started working out in 2010 – albeit on a minor scale. They had agreed to support each other in any activity the other takes part in.  Moustapha, who was living in Kuwait at the time, was contemplating the idea of taking part in the Kuwait Half Marathon and Mazen encouraged. They decided to run together the first time, so when he visited Lebanon, he joined Mazen in running 10km. They both got hooked on the sport of running! Soon after, Mazen ran his first full marathon in Beirut. The Mrouehs continued training separately until they both ran the Dubai marathon in 2012. It was Moustapha’s first marathon, and Mazen’s second.

In 2013, they climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in support of a 9-year old Syrian refugee, Shahd. Since then they both pledged to lead challenges that are exciting enough to grab people’s attention, to inspire the community to donate towards a cause they believe in.

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The Triple 7 Quest
They ran a few marathons and climbed 3 mountains with this objective and soon felt that people were losing  interest and had to find a challenge to reignite their excitement. After conducting some thorough research, they found out about the Triple 7 Quest. The challenge is to complete 7 marathons, on 7 continents, in 7 days with the chance of breaking a world record!

They assembled a team, found aligned sponsors, and decided that this is the golden opportunity to set and break world records.

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The Records
They applied for the record of “Fastest time to Complete a Marathon on Each Continent by a male” and created the new records “Fastest time to Complete a Marathon on Each Continent by Siblings”, “Most Siblings to Complete a Marathon on Each Continent” and “Fastest time to Complete a Marathon on Each Continent by a team.”

One of their team members, Nizar Fakhoury got a Guinness World Records title  for achieving the “fastest time to complete a marathon on each continent”. Mazen and Moustapha got the “Most Siblings to complete 7 marathons on 7 continents” title and the “Fastest Siblings to complete 7 marathons on 7 continents” title is currently still under review. The team title won’t be granted since Guinness required the team to be composed of at least 8 members and they need to be linked together with a 3 meters rope during all the runs.

Moreover, Nizar, Mazen and Moustapha all achieved the 1st 3 male positions in the race out of all the multi national competitors.

You thought that was challenging?
When we asked them what the most challenging competition they entered was, we were surprised to find out that Moustapha joined the hajar 100km race in Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE only 3 weeks after the Triple 7 Quest! The race is a mountain race of around 3000m of elevation gain, under the scorching sun. His body had naturally not recovered causing him to suffer throughout the race, yet he still endured the pain and completed the race.

As for Mazen, his most difficult race was the 24 hours insomnia run where they challenged themselves to run 100km on a sandy terrain!

What’s the Point?
They have partnered with 3 cancer centers in the region – Friends of Cancer Patients in the UAE, King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan and Children Cancer Center of Lebanon. During the past 3 years, they have raised around $200,000 dedicated to the full treatment of children with cancer. And they’re not done yet.

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The North Pole Marathon

When we initially contacted them, the brothers, along with one of their colleagues from Omni Athletes, Dani Afiouni, were training for the world’s coldest marathon – the North Pole marathon. Yup… the North Pole!

They traveled all the way there, overcame the extreme sub-zero temperatures and completed a marathon in one of the remotest parts of the planet! Omni Athletes is officially the first Arab and Lebanese team to be on the list of those to have achieved and received the Marathon Grand Slam Medal, which is earned after completing a marathon on each of the 7 continents in addition to the North Pole.

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Beirut Marathon!
Be sure to check out the brothers when they run the Beirut Marathon later this year. It would mark Mazen’s 4th time and Moustapha’s 3rd time.

Chirine Njeim: Training for Rio
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The last time we spoke to Chirine Njeim, we learnt about her life journey from the 3 year old girl skiing in Faraya, to representing Lebanon 3 consecutive times at the Winter Olympics as an Alpine Skier, to her transition to a marathoner who will be representing Lebanon at the Summer Olympics in Rio this summer.

This time, we were curious to find out how she is currently preparing for the Summer Olympics in Rio this summer.

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Chirine is currently working on getting stronger, building mileage and getting back in the routine of training. She does two hard workouts during the week and one long mileage run on Saturday.  The remaining days, she allows her body to recover from the workout from the previous day.

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For most people, simply adding a 20 minute workout at the gym to our schedule is challenging so we were curious by how Chirine, who has a full-time job and is married, can train so rigorously for the Olympics without affecting her life and  sustain a social life. According to her, it’s simply about finding a good balance and making it work.  For instance, Chirine runs an hour to work every morning. She takes a backpack with her work clothes and showers at the gym located in her office building. On the way back, she runs the shorter route which is around 30 minutes away.  She usually arrives home around the same time as her husband does and enjoys the evening with him and their dog. If she has a dinner or an event to attend after work, she simply makes some adjustments to her morning run by running longer or getting her workout done then. According to Chirine, the success to running is to be flexible and not to allow the workout or run to become a burden.

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Even when traveling, Chirine does not stop.  She continues to run while on vacation and uses it as an opportunity to explore new places and take some great photos. For example, on a recent vacation to Nicaragua, she went for a run on the beach, which as most of you may know, is a tougher run.  During that early morning run, she got the opportunity to see the early fishermen come to shore providing her with the chance to capture some great photos like the one below.

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She later came to Lebanon where she stayed with her family at a chalet in Ouyoun El Simane and Chirine being Chirine, took the opportunity to run at a higher altitude whilst breathing the amazing fresh crisp air.

 

Well now that we’ve gotten an idea of Chirine’s approach to training, we wanted to understand what she eats while training for the Olympics.  We discovered that she is a very healthy eater and that breakfast is her favorite meal of the day.

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Chirine usually has yogurt with granola and fruit for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and has a handful of almonds or an apple for her afternoon snack.  For dinner, she always has chicken or fish with some veggies and carbs such as rice, quinoa, or potato. She also ensures that she drinks a lot of water during the day, and rehydrates after a long run with an electrolyte drink called “Nuun.”

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For those of you wondering if she has any of those yummy food we all tend to crave such as cookies and fries… yes she does! Chirine makes it a point not to restrict herself from eating anything, but she just makes sure she doesn’t eat them every day.

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Chirine was recently in Lebanon as an ambassador for BMA, as a youth idol. She got to spend time with teenagers who participated in the youth race inspiring them and encouraging them to follow their dreams and push their limits. The children got to spend a few hours with her during which there was a Q&A session, some stretching and running, followed with lunch.

Every place has it is beauty. Lebanon in general was more than training to me, because I finally had the chance to see and feel the support and love I have from everyone there. My experience there was everything I needed to keep pushing towards my goal.

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Stay tuned for more updates on Chirine’s road to Rio, Support her by using the #chirine2RIO

Follow her event as she participates in the marathon at the olympics this year