ARCHIVED: 2016 and 2015

The Run For Peace Blog: What's Happening?

January 23, 2016

2015’s motivators: the people who drive you to go the distance

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Great encouragement from one of my younger supporters!

It’s the people around you that make the difference between motivation and giving up. In 2015, I was amazingly lucky to be surrounded by people who believed in me and the work I do, both on my daily runs and in my work at Generations For Peace. Sometimes when you’re working and training full time, it’s others’ positivity that pulls you towards your goals. Ramadan this year fell in June, the first month of high mileage in my training to prepare for the Berlin Marathon. Doing long runs and workouts in the Jordanian summer heat while fasting is almost impossible and can be dangerous, so I decided instead to run after midnight on the road between Amman and Jordan’s main international airport. Running in the middle of the night on an empty highway, chased sometimes by guard dogs, isn’t something you can do alone, and I was lucky to have some good friends to drive with me and sometimes actually chase the dogs away!

 

A long dawn run in the hills around my house in Jordan

A long dawn run in the hills around my house in Jordan

But even when you don’t need friends to literally watch your back on the road, support from those around you is key to performing successfully. In May, I was fortunate to be selected to participate in the Swedish Institute’s Young Leaders Visitors Programme (YLVP). This made a big difference to me, as I really felt that my hard work in promoting sport in the Middle East and supporting peacebuilding through GFP was being recognised. Then, in October, I was featured in Runners World as one of Top 50 Influencers in running worldwide. I was excited to be featured right next to Sebastian Cole, President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), because his example of leadership in raising the standards of athletes’ behaviour inspires us all to hold ourselves to higher standards of clean performance.

Proud to be counted among the Top 50 Influencers in running worldwide in 2015!

Proud to be counted among the Top 50 Influencers in running worldwide in 2015!

Looking forward towards 2016 here in Amman, I see a great year ahead as a member of the DNA Gym team, with the support of KABS Fit Factory. So far, the support of my friends at KABS has helped me stay motivated in a tough period of training. Over the past month, I’ve combined around two hours of running per day with strength training sessions with my personal trainer at DNA Gym, along with nutritional support from KABS Fit Factory and encouragement from all the other coaches and instructors there. In the coming months, I’ll continue to work hard and stay mindful of all the support I’ve received. As Jadranka Stikovac Clark, Institute Director at GFP, told me, “GO, MO, GO - NOTHING CAN STOP YOU - REMEMBER THAT!"

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September 7, 2015

Berlin Marathon 2015

Berlin marathon eggs at my hotel!

Berlin marathon eggs at my hotel!

What motivates us to run? What motivates us to run marathons, or to train for months, just for one race? For me, there are many reasons that I’ve written about here, but in Berlin on September 27th, I was reminded of something special: that amazing connection you feel with the other runners and the crowd around you. When you run with 41,000 others, that’s a lot of family and friends watching and cheering. Even if your own family can’t be there, you still feel a wave of encouragement from everyone around you – and that’s what makes the difference.

In the days leading up to the marathon, as everyone arrives and prepares for the big day, we don’t think of each other as competitors. In a sense, each of us is racing alone, trying to beat ourselves – our own personal bests. We’re all united by that goal, and those numbers become the language of the runners. When we have to travel a long way to get to a race, we get there early to acclimatize and prepare for the big day, getting some easy mileage in in the days leading up to the race. The three days in Berlin before the race were challenging for me, as I had a hard time getting used to the German climate after coming straight from an extra hot Jordanian summer. What helped get me to the starting line was the team spirit surrounding the whole event in Berlin, from the moment I arrived. I was excited to see many friends among the elites already preparing for the race, especially my friends Shadrack Biwott and Gabe Proctor from Mammoth Track Club in California and the inspiring German elite runner Anna Hahner, one of the top German athletes today.

 

With Anna Hahner on the morning of the race

With Anna Hahner on the morning of the race

On the morning of the race, the elite tent was a busy place. Everyone has their own routine to prepare for those 42.1 kilometers, whether it’s stretching, listening to music, massaging their legs, or something else, but this year, most of us had the same goal: qualifying for the Olympic trials in our countries ahead of Rio 2016. I did a few minutes of warmup and then some drills. A lot of the preparation before the race is achieving that focus that will carry you through those grueling two-plus hours. The team spirit that we create as we wait for the starting gun helps us to focus on our goals and making the day count. In the elite tent this year, I met Josh Cox, whom I used to train with in California. “It’s the perfect day for getting your personal best,” he told me. “Just go for it!”

 

With Josh Cox right before the start

With Josh Cox right before the start

One of the things that’s really special about the Berlin marathon is the number of people who come out to watch it and cheer us on. Although I stuck with the group paced for a 2’28 finish until kilometer 35, I started to feel my pace falling after that, and I was very worried that I was close to hitting the wall. It was then that I realized how much I needed the support of the crowds around us, and that I wouldn’t get that motivation unless I asked for it. As I passed the crowds, I raised my arms, asking them to cheer me on to the finish – and the response was amazing. Hundreds of people who were watching quietly suddenly started to yell all kinds of encouragement, waving their arms and shouting “Allez! Allez” (I think they thought I was French or Italian!). I’m sure that that’s what pushed me to complete the race in 2’30’57, which improved my personal best by four minutes.

My splits - a new personal best!

My splits - a new personal best!


September 9, 2015

25 minutes

There’s 25 minutes between my personal best and the times that the world’s best runners achieve. Many of the best marathon runners clock in at a 2.05 or 2.07. For me, that’s a dream. As someone committed to both working full-time to create positive change and to cutting minutes off my personal best, I’ve learned just how much sacrifice those 25 minutes mean, and I’ve been faced with a very personal choice: work for change, or work for better times?

I look around my community here in Jordan and the areas where I work abroad – refugee camps in Lebanon, schools divided by regionalism in Tunisia and ethnic conflicts in Rwanda – and the choice becomes easy: sometimes, changing the lives of children and youth has to come first.

A lot of people ask me how I can run a sub-2.30 marathon while holding down a full-time job that requires frequent travel. Sometimes I feel that I have two different jobs with the same goal: encouraging others to come together through sport and overcome their differences. Right now, I’m promoting the Beirut Marathon in Jordan, encouraging Jordanians to run with other athletes from the Middle East and all over the world, embracing the marathon’s message of togetherness, tolerance, and positivity. Beyond just running fast, these goals help me stay motivated, as I start my day with two hours of road running and track workouts before I clock in at the office, and end it with another hour when I get home.

25 minutes may not sound like long, but cutting it means hours of training – and that means hours less of the peacebuilding work I’m passionate about. My mission now is to balance both as I prepare for the Berlin Marathon on 27 September. 

At the Dead To Red Road Race 2015, representing the joint Generations For Peace - UNICEF team - a 242 kilometer relay race takes a lot of bananas (and coffee)!

At the Dead To Red Road Race 2015, representing the joint Generations For Peace - UNICEF team - a 242 kilometer relay race takes a lot of bananas (and coffee)!