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.
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.
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.
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.’