|Beirut takes a break from high tension to host marathon
|'More than pleased:' Organizers hail fifth edition of race as better than expected, sign that country is adopting 'running culture'
Thousands of runners, walkers, and enthusiastic supporters gathered in Lebanon's capital on Sunday to take part in the fifth annual Beirut Marathon.
The event which included the marathon, a wheelchair marathon, a 5-kilometer race, and a 10-kilometer "fun run," took participants all across Beirut. Scores of supporters cheered the runners on throughout the race.
In Hamra, Lebanese American University students danced, chanted and offered refreshments, while Madonna and techno blared from large speakers Downtown. The finish line had a festival atmosphere, with concerts, Beirut Marathon merchandise, and dozens of tents.
Many streets were closed to traffic across Beirut, and given the current political climate there was a marked security presence. But the marathon took center stage.
"I was more than pleased," said May al-Khalil, president of the Beirut Marathon Association. "I was extremely touched and happy throughout."
The slogan for this year's edition of the event was "it's my marathon," which endowed the race with a theme of empowerment and national solidarity.
Despite the presidential election scheduled for this Wednesday, the event drew a large and nationally representative crowd to the capital.
"I think the most important thing is credibility, walking the talk with our positive energy," Khalil told The Daily Star.
"People put their faith in us - the runners, the army, internal security, UNIFIL," said Khalil. "The race is tremendously important and it is establishing a culture of running" in Lebanon. Most participants seemed very pleased with the event.
"It was a great experience," said Divine, 21, who participated in the fun run along with members of Lebanon Guides, an organization affiliated with the Girl Scouts.
"It was cool; people singing, different organizations, and different groups," she added. "Different people from different regions are gathered for this special event."
Roly, a man from the United Kingdom, ran the full marathon injured and received a white rose at the finish line. "You don't really expect a marathon is a city like Beirut," he said.
Two Ethiopians, Tamrat Elanso and Adaneche Beyene Jemilu, won the men's and women's main event and the $3,000 prize checks. A group of jubilant Ethiopians celebrated the victory of the their compatriots by waving flags and cheering.
It was hot in Beirut on Sunday, and many runners suffered from fatigue and cramps. Joseph Ghanem, a medical officer on site at the finish line, said that he had seen cases of fatigue, nausea, and headaches. He added that about 35 runners had visited his medical tent.
Ghanem added that the type and number of injuries were typical for any marathon.
The event, which according to organizers exceeded all expectations, united professional runners and athletes, families, and groups as it has for the last five years. Khalil said that more people ran in the 5-kilometer race this year that in the years past, suggesting that the event is growing and that it offers something for everyone.
Fadi, 16, was one of the young participants in the 5-kilometer race. "I feel good. I am really glad that I did this today," he said, adding that he plans to run next year as well.
The Daily Star