The Beirut Marathon took place today, and I’m proud to say that I took part in it (the 10K run, that is) with the aches and blisters to prove it. To think I almost didn’t make it (word to the wise: don’t stay up late eating and drinking the night before), and to think I would have missed out on one of the very few city events we’ve had here in a while. A sense of community took over the town for a few hours on a Sunday morning, where the ‘us’ and the ‘them’ referred to the runners and the street-side cheerers. Nothing more – not politics or religion or regions or anything. That was very refreshing…
I am happy to describe our participation as less humiliating this time around as we actually managed to cross the finish line in just under 2 hours, a marked improvement on our last couple of attempts. For that, I mainly have to thank N, my 14-year-old ‘running’ buddy who was determined to break his last record (2hrs 10 mins) and arrive faster than our other competing friends.
I had never quite thought of the marathon as a competition – my goal was mainly to let my walking shoes just carry me over the finish line. The achievement was in the completion. Not the same for N, who would have welcomed a lane for visually impaired runners so that he could have actually run the marathon and arrived even quicker. Until that day, he got stuck with me. A challenge for both of us as N is now taller than me and could easily pull me ahead in his stride. At a couple of junctures (around the 7km mark and again after the 8th) that was actually our tactic – a little clear stretch would present itself in front of us and I would ask him to help me along. There were also a couple of other places where I was very grateful that Thurayya and Loulwa were also running with us, and could take over while I stopped by the side of the road for a breath. So you see, this young man had the energy of the three of us combined! If we hadn’t been so pleased that he pushed us to break the 2 hour mark, we may have been a little tougher on ourselves for being so out of shape.
But today, we will happily fall asleep with a medal hung on our bedposts – it doesn’t mark our time, but we’ll make sure everybody knows it!