BambiRunsBey42K: There is No Finish Line

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#wou7oush

This is the 10th and final installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

When you’re undergoing a training season that culminates on one day, you forget about one minute detail: the marathon is a race. This was of no importance to me personally since I had no intention of even trying to win such a title but, in the end, you are still racing yourself. You may not shoot for the gold but you are attempting to beat the clock, be it to make a new PR or to make it under the maximum allocated time-window. My goal for this run was the latter and I did it. And so did my team.

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How Far We’ve Come
The last Beirut Marathon I was in, I walked/ran a 10K and, upon seeing the pillars marking the kilometers for the marathoners I thought, those people must be batshit. Nothing has changed on that; I still think you have to be a certain level of insane to willingly endure it. Then, deciding to dive into anything beyond a 10K was inconceivable. Five years later, I can say that this has been the hardest physical commitment and challenge that I’ve undertaken which makes it all the more satisfying.

When I started with NRC, Pacer Moe used to run next to me at the very back of the pack. He’d ask me how I’m doing and try to have a conversation while I could hardly spit out a few words as I gasped to breathe. Now, mid-run, I have chats with teammates about travels to other cities to run races. Now, Dima pushed through 42K on her 26th birthday with an injured foot. Now, Hussein, who used to run at pace 9, ran his first marathon in under 6 hours. Now, Dina, one of our youngest runners, placed 1st in her age group. Now, Nour recovered from her stress fracture and ran a kilo alongside each NRC marathoner on the track. Each runner has transformed in this process, each runner has a in the beginning story, and each runner feels the others’ victory.


The Lessons After
* Congratulate every win: Pat yourself on the back for every PR, every extra mile, every 500m sprint, every run you didn’t skip for happy hour.
* I might like running…a little bit: As much as I ran, running ran my life. I read articles, subscribed to newsletters, bought memoirs. You can’t despise a sport and be that invested in the topic itself. Look, it’s not love yet, we’re infatuated. Ya3ni fi shi haik haik.
* Your body is a fascinating, communicative vessel: Surviving rigorous training puts you so in tune with your machinery because you’re carefully monitoring what you eat, how you sleep, and what factors contribute to its optimum performance. If marathon training teaches you anything at all, it’s how to listen to your body’s signals.
* Don’t take healthy toenails for granted: oh, how I miss them so.

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Life After the 2016 Marathon
I kept thinking that I wanted this to be over with so I could have my life back but then I realized that this was only the beginning of an addiction that had begun months ago. You see, exercise is read by the brain as stress so it releases a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) to deal and protect your brain from this stress. It’s a reset switch and, along with endorphins, blocks the feeling of pain and gives you a high. This is the healthiest addiction there is and it is exactly that because more exercise is needed to achieve the same high over time. I guess I’m just going to have to keep running.

So…I’m incorporating Sunday 10Ks into my weekly regimen. I’ll improve my 10K time and work my way up to a better long distance pace. Do I want to run the 42? Yes, one day but let’s talk about it later this week when my jelly legs stop bending the wrong way. Although I haven’t booked my flight to California yet, I’ve signed up for a Champagne Runch and the LA BIG 5K in March. I considered the LA Marathon but I’m not ready to dive into another training season on the heels of finishing my first.

And, with the conclusion of the marathon, I’m happy to say that this blog will return to posts that don’t only revolve around running, kilos, and bodily fluids/lubricants. Not those, you 12 year old.

And now, the thank yous…

To Marianne & the Nike team,
Thank you for giving us all the opportunity to learn who we are. To have this outlet for stress. To have an activity that isn’t just about consumption of burgers & booze. To create another family that won’t hug you when you say you’ve tried your best but will say,“eh ma3leh, PUUUUSH” so you will swallow that lie and find the last drop of fuel that’s escaping your carburetor.

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To Coach Mark,
You lead us to the finish by proving that running doesn’t need to be torture. That being a serious sport doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves seriously all the time. You made running fun, which I never thought was possible. You taught us how to know our bodies, know our limits, and know that we can ignore them because we were more than any of us ever thought. You pushed us beyond our accepted states. You are the magnet, we are the iron filings that, drawn to your positive charge, encapsulate you like a force-field.

To Pacers Moe, Nour, Georges, and Wafik,
Our guardian angels on the road, you guys in neon protect us while simultaneously guiding us to our own wins. Your experience, advice, and support were the stilts that made us stand tall. You called us out when you knew we could give more, even when we didn’t know we could. You are the glue, we are the macaroni pieces, whom together create the awkward art that our mothers cry over.

To my wou7oush,
The high that I feel is not the BDNF endorphin cocktail coursing through my veins; it’s the result of seeing my inspirational beasts get their medals only to, like a wolf entering their pack’s cave, walk into a circle of teammates where they can collapse into palpable safety. You are truly champions. I wouldn’t have done this without your cheers, your smiles, and your contagious willpower.


There is no finish line for we are runners and the streets are waiting for us to return.
Much love to you all.

(Photos collected from team)

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BambiRunsBey42K: The Night Before

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This is the 9th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

But first, the NYC Marathon
Last Sunday, NYC held its 46th marathon. It’s the largest in the world (+50K runners) and the course runs through the five boroughs of the city. The first marathon in 1970 ran through Central Park and only had 55 finishers. Paul Fetscher, a 70-year old who’s run the NYC Marathon 45 times, says, “even though it’s 50,000 people, it’s the small, personal moments that define it.” 

MasterChef judge and co-owner of Eataly, Joe Bastianich participated, finishing at 04:08:25. He once said, “Quite honestly, it is so easy to overindulge when you are around food all day. You have to find balance. If your work sets you up to consume unnecessary calories, you have to be smart and find a way to burn it off.” He gets me. #Wesleys

The Beirut Marathon
Don’t underestimate our little city. The Beirut Marathon is a silver label marathon which means the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has deemed it as one of the “leading road races around the world.” The IAAF are the UN of sports and started in 1912, the same year the Titanic sank. That’s a completely irrelevant connection but I used to be obsessed with Titanic facts before Leo had anything to do with it. I’m still trying to reconcile that that was not a waste of brainspace. Anyway, Wikipedia calls the IAAF the international governing body for the sport of athletics so the silver label is like university accreditation or our marathon being knighted by the Queen. Now we know who to talk to about a Quidditch World Cup.

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PC: Dima Abdallah 

Training is Over
We’ve been playing it safe these last two weeks, keeping our blood flowing without stressing too hard before M-day. We had our last 15K run and, in that last loop back from Sporting, I saw what my favorite part of every run is: when I pass other teammates already making their way back to the start. It may have been that mixed with the relief that training was over but I made a new 10K PR, even if just by a few seconds. It was a good day to do so because I feel ready for tomorrow’s 21.

Even though we’ll be together before and after, I’ll miss seeing all those faces on the marathon track; it’s a circle and 21K & 42K start at different times. I’m sure the cheering stations will take over on that front but it’s a whole other kind of warm&fuzzy when your team’s champs are calling you out by name. It’s similar to that 1 person who offers you their hand to help you get up off the ground only multiplied by 60. There’s a bond that has formed, a kind of solidarity between us that can only come from growing/suffering together. That’s what happens when you spend so much time with strangers while you’re in a raw state and they may be the only other people who understand why you decided to sign up for this unnecessary challenge. They see you without the power suit, the makeup, and the bling that makes you your glossy civilian self. They’re not strangers anymore, they’re your podium holding you up. They’re that safety net that will catch you when you fall. They’re the voices cheering louder than the one that’s begging you to stop. They’re your team and they’ve got you.

I’m partially grateful that I had to shift to the half because now I’ll be there to see every pack42 runner, who will then all be marathoners, cross that finish line after I’ve trudged through my own 21 kilos.

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Don’t forget your socks.

I’ve watched you bust your asses every week, pushing through injuries, sacrificing Saturday nights, and drowsily dragging yourselves out to a Mar Mikhael parking lot every Sunday morning for four months. No matter the outcome or the time it takes you to do it, you’ve made it here. The marathon is just another Sunday morning that you will unlock and conquer.

Get your mantras on repeat during those last few kilometers, even the last 192 meters between the 42K pillar and the finish line at Martyrs Square. Fight through the fatigue but listen to your body when it needs fuel/water/encouragement. Conserve for the distance left to go but don’t let it weigh heavy on your chest. Feed off the energy of the crowd to keep lifting your feet up after every step but hold your head even higher because you have fought for this and you’re winning. Unleash the inner beast. It’s one more day.

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Pacer Moe! (PC: Marc Tanas)

I agree with our veteran NRC pacer, Moe Marhamo, when he said that it feels like he’s going to cross that finish 62 times in a row. I’m so proud of you, my wou7oush, and I can’t wait for all those sweaty hugs tomorrow.

5 Essentials for Marathoners

With just a few days left until the big day, here’s a list of some products all marathoners may need, available at Wesley’s, my literal home away from home. I wrote a list of suggested products for new runners but this post is for longer distances like the marathon.

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NEW: BodyGlide Anti-Chafing Balm
The biggest when it comes to anti-chafing balms, BodyGlide has entered Beirut! We’ve got the original BG, For Her, Foot, Skin, and Cycle in two sizes (standard and travel). Apply this on all sensitive areas to avoid rashes and irritation caused by chafing (friction from skin-on-skin or clothing-on-skin). This product isn’t exclusively for athletes; it’s also for those who suffer from various forms of chub rub during their daily life. #thickthighssavelives

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Yogi Muscle Recovery Green Tea with Turmeric
This is a double win when it comes to healthy points. Green tea is recommended to runners because it’s loaded with stress-reducing amino acids that elevate your metabolic rate and up muscle mass. This Yogi variant has turmeric, an extract from curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and antioxidant properties. It also has anti-inflammatory yucca root and blackberry leaf. Every box, priced at 8500LL, has 16 tea bags with little messages on the tags for that fortune cookie effect.

Another good option is Runa tea which contains Guayusa, a leaf with twice the antioxidants of bagged green tea and ~30 fewer mg of caffeine per cup than coffee.
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ProBar Energy Chews
On long distance runs, you need to refuel every hour or so. Each runner has their own preferred mid-run snack based on trial runs (edible gels, chews, or good old-fashioned nuts & dates). Wesley’s carries the 4 flavors of ProBar energy chews (2 with caffeine, 2 without). Each pack costs 4500LL and has 2 servings of 4-5 chews.

Do not take gels or chews with electrolytes (Gatorade). Your body will overload and you’ll need a potty faster than you can find one.

Coconut Water/Oil

Coconut water for hydration after the miles are done and coconut oil all over errythannnnng to soothe the skin. As I’ve said multiple times, coconut oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and moisturizer. Coconut water is 3250-3500LL each and an 84oz jug of coconut oil is 48,000LL.

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Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt or a Cryopak Ice Pack
After putting that much stress on your muscles, you need to help your body recover. Epsom salts in a warm bath will do wonders for aches & pains. Stock of this therapeutic soak flies off the shelves so grab it while you can. A 6lb bag is for 24,000 LL.

Icing your knees and joints for 15min intervals is helpful as well. The Cryopak is usually for coolers but at 3500LL, this reusable plastic pack can be better than the lumpy bag of peas in your freezer.

Make sure to test the chafing balm and chews on a practice run before the 13th so you know it’s a good choice for future runs. Marathon Day is not the day to test the new, only tried and true.

Good luck fellow runners!