LAU Runs the Beirut Marathon

Every year brings a slew of wins for competitive LAU runners, and the 2018 marathon was no exception.

By Louisa Ajami

LAUers unleashed their energy on and off the stage in the much-anticipated marathon.
A medal of a golden heart, printed on a black T-shirt, symbolized the cause LAUers ran for this year.
LAU cheerleaders wowed the audience with their all-out performance.
Our runners and volunteers marked the end of the event in front of the medical tent.
The thrill of crossing the finish line!

Balloons bounced about, and banners shouted out slogans. The air was buzzing with energy. When the signal sounded, thousands of runners – including 467 from LAU – bounded forth.

This jubilant scene is an annual one in Lebanon: the highly anticipated BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon.

“Participating in the Beirut Marathon has become an exciting tradition for us at LAU,” said President Joseph G. Jabbra in a statement on race day. “The diversity, strength and perseverance of the runners – who come from all over the world – inspire us to continue embracing those same values back on campus.”

LAU has been participating in the marathon since its launch more than a decade ago, and with each year, the university donates a portion of LAUers’ registration fees to a different charity and helps the organizations raise awareness.

This year, for each LAUer who registered to run, 25 percent of the fee went to the National Organization for Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation (NOD), a group that works under the Ministry of Public Health to reduce taboos around the subject and help patients receive the life-saving care they need. It is the only official body supervising all organ and tissue donation and transplant activities in Lebanon. 

“It is an honor to be able to contribute to the work of NOD, which gives hope to those suffering from frightening diagnoses,” said Dr. Jabbra.

For Byblos campus Athletics Director Joe Moujaes, participating in the marathon and supporting NOD are part of “LAU’s mission to encourage all kinds of sports and support healthy lifestyles. This year we are running for another great cause, which is organ donation. It is very important to help create awareness about this issue and save lives while participating in an event where Beirut is car-free for a day.”

Aside from the good work that comes out of the university’s participation, the event is a chance to show off the skills of LAU athletes, who place competitively every year. This year, a team of 30 Varsity Track and Field members ran. Cheering them on were over 70 volunteers made up of LAU students, faculty, staff, friends and supporters.

“Our runners have been training since July,” said Athletics Coordinator Mohamad Mawas, who is also the track and field coach. The team, he said, practiced five days a week, come rain or shine, in order to prepare for the day. “The track and field team has been competing for years, and we haven’t missed a podium yet.”

Director of Athletics on Beirut campus Sami Garabedian agreed. “Our runners train hard, and place competitively. But in the end, it is for charity, camaraderie and fun.” Not one to stick to the sidelines, Garabedian and his family joined in too, participating in the 8k Fun Run. “We are spectators and participants,” he mused. “It’s all about the fun.”  

Aside from the Athletics Department’s participation, volunteers from the Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine and the LAU Medical Center-Rizk Hospital were on the scene staffing the Medical Tent near the finish line. Most of the volunteers’ work was to provide emergency medical support in cases of dehydration, muscle cramps, trauma and chest pain, according to Dr. Rania Sakr, program director at the Department of Family Medicine, who ran the Medical Tent on race day.

“As medical professionals, our job falls in line with the medical school and medical center’s mission to encourage physical health and advise on the importance of physical activity, provide support during national events, and serve the community,” said Dr. Sakr.

By the end of the day, LAU had gathered plenty of prizes: The Varsity Track and Field Team won first place in the 42k university relay and 8k fitness group race, and scored top three in the women’s 42k relay race. Student runner Tamara Zein also took first place in the 21k race for her age group.

“I would like to thank all the LAU students, faculty and staff who worked so hard to make our participation today possible,” Dr. Jabbra said. “Together, no matter what the challenge, we can be a force of change.”