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.
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.
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.
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)