I Run for Peace. For Family. For Community.

I Run for Peace. For Family. For Community.

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!

Peace Love Run

Peace Love Run

I am not, have never been, nor will I ever be a runner.

But the Beirut Marathon is still one of my favorite days of the year.  Our house is surrounded by the race route, so we wake up in the morning to the sounds of music, laughing and cheering – which is a nice change to the normal honking cars and construction noise we hear on a daily basis outside our windows.

Isla counts months by the birthdays and holidays that fall in them, and November is always all about “the race!”

I know marathon runners spend months and months preparing their bodies to run, working up to the distance and bringing their time down.  Preparation for the race in our house is a little different, but still very important.  ;)

First things first, spreading out the maps and coming up with a plan.


Isla made sure to label all the stations in case we needed to know where to get bananas or water.


Of course we had to try on our race shirts and run around the house like banshees practicing how we were going to win.

The morning of the race the girls were up earlier than normal begging to put their numbers on.


This year all the Safe Haven girls joined the fun as well.  Once they arrived at our house, we divided up into teams and headed down to the start.  Caleb ran the 5K with the oldest girls, so we stopped on the way to our race to watch them run by.


For the third year, the girls and I ran in the 1km Run with Parents.  This year, Isla ran with the little SH girls while Ruby, my big ‘ole belly, and I brought up the rear.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous… just a little bit cloudy and really comfortable temps.  And the atmosphere on race day is like no other day in Beirut.  People are happy.  Many are running to support important causes and organizations.  You see people of many nationalities, religions, genders and ages all coming together… which just doesn’t happen that often (ever?) here.  I loved this years theme as well: Peace, Love, Run.


The course seemed a lot more crowded this year.  Lots of strollers and big groups of walkers on our route.  Fine, but a bit hard when your little girls want to run fast and win.  :)  We did find a few stretches of empty road to run on though.


And we made it… without me going into labor!


The girls of course were most excited that they “won” the race.


All in all, a great day.  Isla is already preparing for next year’s race!

Run for Lebanon!

Run for Lebanon!

Last Friday, Isla woke up and immediately started bouncing off the walls.

“It’s November!!  That means it’s time for the race!”


She’s basically been counting down the days to this year’s marathon since she crossed the finish line last year.  And she wasn’t disappointed!

The weather was amazing (sunny and 75 degrees in November… my kind of autumn!).  We headed down early to see some of the SH girls start their 5K race and then headed toward the start line for the 1km Run with Parents.  Somehow the announcer didn’t get the memo about the name change this year (from Run with Mom last year) and kept calling out, “are you ready ladies?!?!” which really made me laugh.


Caleb decided to run with us this year (instead of the 10K he normally does), which meant Isla could “win” and Ruby could “run” at her own adorable pace.


Ruby did pretty good!  She got tired about halfway through and wanted to be carried and then wanted down and then wanted to be carried and then wanted down and then noticed that her shoes had flowers on them and decided to have a seat and check them out.  We finished eventually.  :)

Isla’s race got off to a rough start as we made her put down the balloon someone had given her, but she eventually got over it and was thrilled that she “won” the race when she found a medal in her goodie bag at the finish line. (on a side note, the goodie bags for the 1K were quite disappointing… the medal and an ad pamphlet.  What happened to the juice and trail mix??)

The finish line was absolute chaos.  I think we got a bit spoiled last year… with the rainy weather it didn’t feel quite as crazy as I think a lot of people stayed home… or at least headed home as soon as the race ended.  We hung out with masses of people waiting for the girls to finish their race and then headed to our house for some manaoushe.

It was a great, fun day and we can’t wait to “run” again next year!



Spotted at the marathon

Spotted at the marathon

One of the nice things about the marathon is that they close all the streets around our house to make it safe for the runners.  There aren’t a lot of places where I can just let Isla run in Beirut, so this was a nice treat.  Or at least in theory.  Apparently if you have enough wasta, you can drive anywhere, including right up the middle of the road where the “Run with Mom” race is taking place.

One in a mini-convoy of black cars with dark windows. Seriously, I had to grab Isla’s hand to pull her out of the way!  (Sorry for the blurry picture! :))

There was this guy too.  He didn’t have the dark windows and special license plate, but he must have had some sort of connection…

Last year, they handed out Snickers to all the runners in the 10K.  That actually worked out great for Isla, because as we were standing on the sidelines watching for Caleb to run by, several runners tossed her their candy bars.  (Hmmm… maybe that’s why she was so excited for the race this  year?! :))

This year, they handed out apples.  Again, great idea in theory.  Much more healthy than a candy bar.  But have you ever seen someone try to run the last few kilometers of a 10K while eating an apple?

Technically by this point in the race, most people were walking rather than running. But still.

And then there are all those pesky apple cores to deal with…

The number of apples that actually made it into the trash can is quite impressive for the streets of Beirut, although we did see even more tossed to the side of the road.

And then there is the running attire.  While most were dressed in neon sneakers and some sort of rain gear, this is Beirut after all – probably the best dressed city I have ever lived in.

Always keeping it classy, Beirut!  :)

Running in the rain

Running in the rain

Isla has been looking forward to this day for months.  Every night before bed, she wants to sing the months of the year song.  As she’s singing through the song, she points to whoever has a birthday in that month.  And when she gets to November, she yells, “the race!”

So today was the big day of the Beirut Marathon.  In addition to the marathon, there are a bunch of other mini-races.  Isla, Ruby and I ran the 1k, and Caleb ran the 10k.  This is what we woke up to…

…but by the time we needed to head out it was just sprinkling.

We got to the starting line and Isla took off.  We passed a bunch of our friends who were all surprised that we were actually running, but Isla was determined to win.  And she did great.  She had to take few walking breaks, but she ran about 3/4 of the course.  We did have to stop to put her rain jacket on at one point… it started pouring and she started bawling… apparently she was upset that her number was getting wet!

Ruby was a trooper.  Seriously, easiest baby ever.  Didn’t make a peep even though I know by the end of the morning she was beyond tired and hungry.  She was also the star of the show.  Every “official” photographer along the route (as well as several dozen random people with camera phones) asked us to stop so they could take her picture.  I finally just started saying no because Isla wanted to keep running.  Pictures aren’t up on the website yet, but I fully expect to see Ruby there!

We crossed the finish line and Isla immediately asked where her medal was.   Then told me she wanted to run again.

She was quite proud that she “winned.”

We hung out near the finish line with some friends, who were walking to raise breastfeeding awareness, until Caleb finished his race.

Even though it was wet and a bit chilly, it was a really fun morning.  Isla is already trying to figure out when the next race is.  :)