As we stood crammed together at the starting line for the Beirut Marathon, I actually found myself tearing up as the announcer alternated between two mini-speeches to the thousands of parents and children waiting to run. “Please, be very, very careful, there are very small children at the front, do not shove, do not push, be patient, be calm.” And then, “Good morning Peace Runners! Look at us all here, all together, all running for peace, for love, to show the world what our country can be! We run for Lebanon! We are here as Lebanese, one people running to show our solidarity and our hope for this land and what we believe it can be!”
That’s one of the reasons this is one of my favorite days of the year. Thousands upon thousands all gathered together to enjoy the city, their families and one another. In many ways, this country is a mess. Garbage is still piled up under bridges and on the banks of the Beirut river. There is an infestation of flies. A teacher checking the underpants of a Syrian child in front of the class to make sure they are clean. And then this same 6 year old being kicked out of school for being Syrian. We are surrounded by war, by heartache, by immense need. And yet on this one day, we all come together to collectively shout to the world that even in the midst of all the mess, we still have hope. We blast our music, we sing and dance in the streets, and we run. Some run to break their records, others run to raise money for charity. Some just for fun, others to rally around a cause. But the beauty of it is, no matter the reason, we all run. Together. Towards one finish line. Together.
My girls love the race. Isla woke up on the first of November bouncing off the walls because it was race month. This year they were thrilled to find kids’ shirts in their registration packet.
They were up and dressed bright and early. Really early.
We headed downtown to line up for our race. We got to Martyr’s Square and could see where we needed to be, but couldn’t agree on how to get there. I thought we should follow the crowd of hundreds which was a huge mistake. We got stuck in a suffocating mass of people hanging out and had to jump over a few metal barriers to get free and find our gathering area. I’m not sure why we decided to follow the directions of the one (ahem, me) who once got lost driving home from Ohio and decided to follow a car with a Georgia license plate because surely they were heading to North Carolina. But I digress. We finally made it to our meeting point and then headed to the starting line.
Caleb and Isla ran ahead, and Isla did awesome! The race was longer this year, 2 km instead of one, which was perfect. It’s long enough that you can actually enjoy it, but not too long that Isla couldn’t run almost the whole thing. She had to stop and walk once, but ended up finishing the race in 13 minutes. Not bad for a 6 year old!
The new course was really nice. In the past, the Run with Parents has been in a really quiet part of downtown, away from the rest of the circuits. But this year it was right in the middle of everything. It made things feel really fun and festive, although it meant the course was really crowded with other runners waiting for their race to start, hanging out in the middle of the street where we were trying to run, taking pictures and listening to the music. We never really had an empty stretch of street to run on, which was fine because Ruby was happy to walk most of the way. Although I do think she was a bit overwhelmed by the crowds and would have run had there been a little more space. She did take off when we hit the red carpet indicating the finish line was just ahead.
And Luka clearly enjoyed his first race (first race unless you count last year when he was a week away from being born).
We made our way through the lines to get our goody bags and came away with handfuls of fruit, juice, granola bars and water. If Ruby was eh about the race, she was more than happy with her treats.
Speaking of treats, the girls made bank with their goody bags this year. Way better than the trail mix and water they got last year. Although somehow we managed to get a few 10k medals.
We had planned on meeting friends at the start to run together, but we couldn’t find each other in the crowd so we met up at the finish line so the girls could show off their medals.
It’s the kind of morning you don’t want to end. So we headed to our favorite restaurant for a second breakfast and to let the girls rehash their successes on the course.
As we wandered back home, we walked a bit with the 10 k Fun Runners. Or Riders as the case may be.
Only in Lebanon!