I am an average runner who is super passionate about running. I started at the age of 23, after graduating with a Bachelor Civil Engineering in Beirut, Lebanon. I had no athletic background and I was overweight. My approach to life completely changed when I decided to participate, for the first time, in the Nike Human Race (10k race), in October 2009. At this race, I met inspirational professional marathon athlete and Lebanese National Champion, Maria Pia Nehme. Running with her by my side not only encouraged me, but pushed my limits. She treated me as no less than a champion. Maria’s support helped me overcome health issues (sciatica, back pain, exercise induced asthma) and enriched my transition into a healthy active lifestyle.
Running is a gift. It teaches you valuable life lessons and pushes your limits, both physically and mentally: “It is never too late… No hard work goes unpaid…Be grateful for the lungs that can breathe and the body that can run…You can always be a better person”, and more. Ever since my experience with Maria, I have participated in countless marathon road races ranging from 5km to 21 km. I was a member of running clubs in Beirut; I also joined the varsity track team at the American University of Beirut where I studied for my Master’s degree. I was recognized as Most Valuable Person in 2012.
In September 2014, came to the University of Alberta to do my PhD. Not only was I super excited to fly 10,000 km to the other side of the world, I also faced challenges (like all international students studying abroad) in all aspects of my life and culture.
Surprisingly and unexpectedly, one challenge I thought I would struggle with was actually one the easiest: living in below zero temperatures with snow for the first time. Even though there are snowcapped mountains in Lebanon with ski slopes and the like, you still have to drive for an hour to experience winter weather. Before coming to Edmonton, I experienced running in very stormy, rainy, weather in Beirut, but never ran in the snow.
At first I found it hard to get back into my preferred activity. I decided a good place to start was to join the UAlberta varsity team, but I missed the tryouts. I contacted the coach anyway and I shared my passion about running. The coach encouraged me to participate in a cross-country race, organized by the Running Room Athletics Club. He felt this would be a good starting point for me to later be considered for the varsity team. This is how I met my future running coach, Matthew Norminton, who coaches the Running Room Club and the Concordia Thunders.
Still, I was not at the same level and speed as the rest of the team and I needed to train on my own, especially for the long runs. I love running outdoors and I hate running on a treadmill (it makes me feel like a hamster spinning on a wheel). Living on campus allows me to explore Edmonton’s gem – the river valley.