Tuesday, October 21, 2008

North to South / Day 6

North To South – 15h October 2008 – Beirut - Rest day
Today we took time off from the road to recover our senses and rest our weary legs. The whole team was exhausted from the relentless routine of the previous days.
Thanks to the good work of the British Ambassador Guy and the Beirut Marathon Association, we received an invitation from the Minister Arslan, the Minister for Youth and Sports to visit him at his home. He was extremely warm and friendly and more importantly he expressed his support for all the efforts in combating cancer, supporting healthy activities and for the great work of the Beirut Marathon Association.
The afternoon was spent at the Children’s Cancer Center in Beirut. The team as a whole were taken on a whirlwind of emotions. We met Kristy, a lively 14 year old sat on her laptop just as any other teenager would be. She smiled and spoke of her chemotherapy, of the difficulties she has to confront at such a young age. Her mother looked on proudly. Then we met Valentina, slight in size, but with endearing eyes and a broad smile. Like Kristy she was undergoing chemotherapy. We met the doctors, nurses, volunteers and the young out-patients (ranging from 6 months to 12 years old). I could not help thinking about how childhood innocence and families are placed under immense pressure by cancer. I know of so many similar such stories from family and friends, but today was both humbling and awe-inspiring. Today I knew that I had made a valuable decision to come to Lebanon.

North to South Day 4

North To South – 13th October 2008 –Batroun to Byblos - –16 kms
Admittedly, my legs were extremely tired this morning. Nevertheless, I was confident that I would be able to easily complete the distance. This morning Ali and I had the company of Marlene, on her bicycle, and two of her close friends, Tony and George. The run started on the outskirts of town at around 8.30 am. The sun had been up since 7am, and the temperatures were soaring to around 30 degrees centigrade.
Ali and I are falling into a pattern whereby we begin with a relatively slow pace to try to shake off the lactic acid in out legs from the previous days, and to warm the muscles up without causing ourselves injury. Back to back running invariably places the body under quite a bit of strain. This morning I was acutely aware that whilst today was 16kms, tomorrow would require us to cover some 40kms.
Marlene, Tony and George thankfully were very understanding of the spirit of the run – this was/ is not a race to the finish, it is about using the run to share experiences, learn from each other, and most of all to promote cancer awareness.
After about 8kms when everyone had settled into their stride, Marlene pulled her bike up beside me. I told Marlene that I had heard that she was a cancer survivor. I said that I found this hard to believe. Marlene is exactly six days older than me, yet has the looks and energy of a twenty-one year old. Moments before I had watched Marlene free-wheel down a steep hill, arms outstretched at her side, wind in her hair, whooping and hollering with joy at the world around her. Four years prior to this, Marlene was diagnosed with cancer. Marlene had previously lost her mother to cancer, and subsequently her father to a ‘broken heart’ having missed her mother so much.
I forgot about the pain of running completely as I listened to Marlene describe in great detail the hardship of the illness she had confronted as a vivacious young woman. Foremost, Marlene had to raise 500,000 USD in order to pay for the treatment, which would be required to combat her illness. As chance would have it, a benefactor, Pierre, stepped forward to assist Marlene in covering a portion of the costs to pay for the treatment in the United States (St Judes Hospital).

Marlene’s initial hope was dashed when Pierre became ill and fell into a coma just as he was about to sign over the required funds. When Pierre recovered sufficiently, Marlene was able to at last begin her chemotherapy.
So began over two years of chemotherapy. Marlene described losing her hair, suffering heart and liver failure, the paralysis on one side of her body which lasted for over a week, the weight loss, and the overall feeling of decaying illness.
As part of her treatment, Marlene received a bone marrow transplant from her brother Mario. Following surgery, Marlene lived at the risk of infection for several months. On the day that Marlene went in for her first major surgery, it transpired that Pierre, her benefactor, passed away on that same day (although Marlene was shielded from the news for some time until she was sufficiently strong).
We continued together in peace for a few hundred metres before Marlene described the process of managing her body and mind back to health. She said that she gained strength through other cancer patients (some who lived and some who died), and from the power gained through her faith, and prayer. Week after week Marlene worked on a treadmill, first one minute per week, then two minutes and so on.
Marlene is now 35 years young, extremely fit and she has a full head of beautiful hair. Most likely Marlene could easily out cycle Ali or myself. Marlene carries a special air about her. She attracts friends with ease and she will always make a room glow when she enters it. Marlene lives each and every moment of her life to the fullest.
I know that these short paragraphs do little justice to the story I was told.
As it was, the run passed by with relative ease. Marlene’s story was and is representative of why Ali and I are running, why the Beirut Marathon Association is backing the North to South Run, and most of all, why people should always have hope.
Today was one of my best and most memorable runs ever. Cancer survivor and elite cyclist once wrote; “its not about the bike”. Today I realized that “its not about the run”. Thank you Marlene.

Post script: Other highlights from the later part of the day were a visit to Pepe’s Fishing Club in Byblos, and a wondrous visit to a local sculptor studio and garden.

North to South Day 3

Friday, October 17, 2008

North to South RUN/ Day 5 / October 14th

North To South – 14th October 2008 – Byblos to Beirut - 40.5 kms
Imagine you have been running four days in a row, you have covered almost 90 kms. Imagine waking up in a new bed every morning having slept a maximum of five hours per night. Your legs are exhausted. In fact, you are exhausted from head to toe. The alarm rings, your eyes feel like sand paper and your legs feel like lead. Today you have to run 40.5 kms, just shy of a full marathon.
The start is delayed for some time as we await the arrival of Miss Lebanon. Each moment we wait, the higher the sun gets in the sky. Still, the scenery is stunning. We are surrounded on all sides by Phoenician stonework, dating back over six thousand years. The people of Byblos turn out in numbers to offer Ali and I drinks and fruit to nourish us for the day ahead. Eventually we set off, unfortunately without Miss Lebanon.
Joining us for the run today is an old and dear friend of mine, Dr Ahmad, the first person I met in Lebanon when I came here in 2007. He had developed my enthusiasm for the country and its people. Together, Ahmad and I had covered tens of miles and hundreds of conversations whilst running all over Beirut. Indeed, the genesis of the North to South Run had begun during one such early morning run with Ahmad. Needless to say, his company on the run made me feel extremely happy. I trust him deeply as a runner and as a friend.
Once we had kicked off the tiredness in our legs we got into a nice pace, somewhere around six minute per km (though as a treat to myself, I have chosen not to wear a watch nor to count the kilometers, but to enjoy the running without the pressure of time).
Have you ever wondered how hard it is for an average runner like myself to keep up with a top athlete, a guy running in the prime of his life? Let me tell you, its not easy. Ali is a consummate running professional. Spending time around Ali makes you realize that greatness as an athlete is something that needs to be nurtured and fine tweaked at every opportunity. But this is far from enough in and of itself. Ali has a deep desire to be the best, to run the furthest, to be the strongest and to make Lebanon proud of his efforts. If as a country you had not noticed it, Ali Wehbe is one in 10 million. His sturdy shape belies the fact that he has the heart of a true competitor. When the average or even exceptional man would fall to the roadside with exhaustion, Ali would be able to keep on going with ease. At times his running is mechanical. He has an ability to zone out, put his head down and to endure pain like no one else I have ever met before. I have some of the same qualities as an endurance runner, but I am distinctly average in comparison to Ali. If you have not run with him, and if you have the opportunity to try to keep up with him, I highly recommend you do as you will receive a master class in what it is to be a running professional.
The run itself is fantastic. We move through small towns like Bouar and Aamachit, past the magnificent Casino du Liban. In Jounieh we take a break at the invitation of a local municipal officer who delights in giving us a guided tour of the local municipal offices, built in the latter part of the 19th century (1859 I think). Wiping the sweat from my eyes I was astounded by the black and white, and sepia style photos which adorned the walls. Images of yester-year portraying a rich and proud heritage.
As we continue I change my soaking tee-shirt for the third or fourth time. Ahmad, Hamed, Ali and myself are joined by the fresh legs and smiling face of Joe, who has managed to convince his bosses that he needs a day off in order to come and join us for the last 21 kms of the run. With the security arrangements around us, it is a unique occasion to be allowed to run into Beirut, against one way traffic surrounded by police and cameras.
Having stopped in with Nike in the centre of Beirut we run the final two kms to the Corniche waterfront basking in the fact that we have run a marathon distance and that we were all still smiling. Today was perhaps my strongest day of running. Like Ali, I think that the greater the distance, the better I feel and do. Perhaps the day’s success was down to Marlene and little Ali (that we met on day2) racing through our minds.
With their strength we run.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

registration deadline November 15
be part of the Blom Beirut Marathon 2008

register now
dont miss out

Monday, October 13, 2008

عادت من العاصمة البولندية وارسو بعثة جمعية بيروت ماراثون الى وارسو ماراثون الثلاثين الذي شارك فيه العداء اللبناني زهير ناجي والعراقي خالد الحلّي (المقيم في لبنان) وقد ضمت البعثة مدير تطوير المشاريع الخاصة عبدالله عبد النور والمسؤول عن العدائين المحترفين المشاركين في بلوم بيروت ماراثون 2008 الإيطالي انطونيو نانوني. وفي النتائج الفنية للمشاركة اللبنانية في السباق فقد سجل العداء ناجي وقتاً بلغ 2:59:00 ساعتان والعداء الحلّي 3:50:00 ساعات مع الإشارة الى أن هذه المشاركة وغيرها من المشاركات الأخرى تأتي إنفاذاً لبرنامج جمعية بيروت ماراثون على صعيد توفير فرص الاحتكاك للعدائين اللبنانيين في الماراثونات العالمية. هذا وكان عبد النور عقد اجتماع عمل مع رئيس اللجنة المنظمة لماراثون وارسو ماريك ترونينا تم البحث خلاله في كيفية تعزيز التعاون وتبادل الخبرات ما بين جمعية بيروت ماراثون واللجنة المنظمة لماراثون وارسو وفي هذا الإطار أبلغ عبد النور الى تورنينا دعوة مجانية لزيارة لبنان والمشاركة في سباق بلوم بيروت ماراثون 2008 وذلك لمن أحرز المركز الأول لماراثون وارسو هذا العام

Miss Lebanon 2007 Runs the Blom Beirut Marathon 08

•Nadine was born to the Njeim Family on February eight -1988
•Nadine is the oldest Among two brothers
•Originally from Maaser el Chouf
•Completed her High School Education in Jesus and Marie school
•Currently Perusing her University degree in International Business &Intl Affairs at LAU- Lebanon
•Elected Miss Lebanon in March 2007

•Through her year of reign, Nadine was referred to by the Media as one of Lebanon’s most Active misses in philanthropy.
•Nadine parades several social causes, among which: The Red Cross, The Lebanese Diaspora, Children Cancer, Hepatitis, Road Safety, etc
•Nadine still actively rallies awareness on these issues and is on the course of adopting few others.

•Nadine Njeim is a Red Cross volunteer herself and a firm believer in this association principles and goals. In the Naher el Bared war, she shed the light on these heroes’ mission by serving herself in the lines of fire drawing the attention of the International media.
•Nadine is also the representative of the Hep Attitude Positive, helping to bring up the cause of the Hepatitis patients to the light.
•An active member in the “KunHady” association rallying road safety and aware driving.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The North to south Run was launched in the BBM 08 press conference held in UNESCO palace on October 9th, at 6:00 pm. This run will start in Abdeh (North Lebanon) and along the coast side till Nakoura (South Lebanon), a ten days journey in which Ali Wehbeh (Lebanese), Peter Dulvy (Irish) and Desment Roberts (Indian) will run and visit schools, associations and regions to encourage people to run the Blom Beirut Marathon 08 against cancer.

Thanks to those who attended and supported the Beirut Marathon Association.