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Lucia Czernin moved to Lebanon in 2013 from her hometown of Vienna, Austria. A keen writer, she published a children’s book in German last year. Here she documents her experience at the Beirut Marathon last month.

 

LIFE IS A MARATHON

“Your Legs Will Forgive You,” stated one of this year’s marathon slogans in Beirut. In my case, they seem to be particularly unforgiving: days have passed and they still revolt. But after all, it hasn’t been about them anyway.

While I had to struggle terribly with these legs during the run, I remember having been outstripped several times by some speedy runners wearing t-shirts saying “Brave Heart” on the back – most of them children. Children are so used to falling down and standing up again, they don’t even get distracted by it. This impression exceeds by far the unforgiving legs: all these Brave Hearts running for their country, for peace, for their loved ones.

The 2016 edition of the Beirut Marathon was held exactly a month ago on 13th of November. Together with a friend, I registered for the 21.1 kilometer run, not knowing what I was doing.

We probably thought it a romantic idea to run around the car-free city on a Sunday morning.

 

 The day finally arrived and by 6:30 am, tens of thousands of runners from 99 countries assembled in front of the Mohammad Al Amin Mosque in Beirut’s iconic Martyr’s Square to set off on an adrenaline fueled dash around town. My eyes couldn’t help but notice one enthusiastic participant dressed up as a ladybug. The thought of this human insect navigating the streets in a puffy-costume brought an instant smile to my face.

The excitement in the air was palpable: a mix of party music and the bells of St. Georges Cathedral calling the congregation for Sunday mass. Nothing was about to spoil this moment. The trash crisis, traffic jams, unsavory politicians, pollution, injustices and general dramas of everyday life in Lebanon faded into obscurity. What mattered at this precise moment was to run… together.

 

Endless faces waving and cheering on the sidelines kept us plodding along, as did the ladybug, who managed to overtake my friend and me at numerous points throughout our adventure. It was at that point I realized how late I had left my training and my legs ultimately paid the price of such procrastination.

 

In the end, I decided to follow the group of kids with Brave Heart tops. The sense of euphoria as I passed the finishing line was secondary to the feeling I got from a little girl who crossed the final frontier a few moments later and smiled at me as she said, “Thank you! You got me paced.”

 

Lucia Czernin