Over the past few years, I dabbled in many fitness activities but try as I may, running was the one activity I could never get into.
I tried. I installed the Nike Plus app (several times) in hopes that it would provide me with the motivation I needed; but I still ended my runs out of breath, panting, and with stitches in my side. Apart from the occasional yearly 10K Fun Run I would register for and then half walk/half jog, I completely gave up running.
I first heard about Beirut542 (a program that trains people for marathons) in July of 2014; I remember feeling slightly envious of the participants as I followed their progress and runs on social media. Many of them were first-time runners, and as I read their stories, witnessed their struggles, and watched them cross one milestone after another, I knew I wanted to take on this challenge too.
In July 2015, after waiting impatiently for weeks, Beirut Marathon opened registration for the Beirut542 program. Unbeknownst to me at the time, choosing coach Walid El Kabbani, AKA Team Walid, would be a key factor in my marathon training success.
Team Walid – one of our very first team photos.
Following the right marathon training program is vital, and luckily for us, Coach Walid created the perfect one:
– Three times a week we would meet for diverse short runs. – Every Sunday we’d go for a long run (which increased in distance every week).
This helped in building both our endurance for long runs, as well as our strength and speed.
Although both the short and long runs were challenging, they got significantly easier and more enjoyable over time,thanks to my fellow team members who were a great source of support, laughter and motivation. It wasn’t long before we felt like one big family.
One of the toughest runs for me was the 21 kilometer long run. I don’t remember much from that run, but what I do remember is coming close to giving up several times while Mary, a running buddy, cheering me on and not allowing me to quit. That day, I learned an important lesson: running is, above all, a mental sport and it was my mind that I would have to train to get me to the finish line.
Post the 21 kilometer run.
The Final Countdown
I won’t go into too much detail about the Beirut Marathon itself, but I will say one thing: it is tough. You can prepare physically and mentally, and still hit that ‘wall’.
I hit mine at the 27 km mark. Up until that point, the race had been pretty smooth, but once I reached the beginning of the Beirut-Dbayeh sea road, the run got considerably harder and seemingly impossible to complete. We were completely exposed to the burning sun, the bands playing were blaring heavy metal and rock music, and we were running on a road flanked with mainly industrial and commercial buildings parallel to a busy highway. What was even more discouraging was the sight of the people making their way back on the other side of the partition; many were walking, some were limping, and very few were smiling. By the time I reached the 27 km mark, I was tired, sweating, demotivated, and in pain; and so I half walked half ran my remaining 15 km, sprinting only when I saw the finish line, and bursting into tears shortly after crossing it.
I had made it, and even though the competitive perfectionist in me still thinks I should have pushed myself harder, in the end, I, the non-runner ran a marathon, all 42.195 kilometers of it.
Crossing the finish line, just seconds before the waterworks started.