Some of you may already know about this story. Yesterday, the April issue of U magazine came out, with an article I had written for the Beirut Marathon Association on inspiring women who run. The article was published however, without my name on it. Needless to say, I was furious. I emailed BMA asking for a clarification since they were my direct contact, tweeted asking U Mag for an explanation as well.
By the end of the day, I had been told that BMA sent the article with my name on it, and that U Mag would publish an erratum in next month’s issue crediting me.
But the thing is, though I appreciate the quick response and rectification of this – At the end of it all, it’s really just me who walks away upset. I wrote a good article from a good place at the time, yet seeing it today did not make me happy and that won’t change because of a small text box a month from now. I understand this was not a malicious act, and an innocent mistake as I was told – but it makes me wonder, if I had not inquired about this, would it have mattered at all? Is it only unethical because I noticed it?
The good news here is, we are in the era of technology, where twitter, facebook, and blogging are the new forums for sharing news. Which means, there are few gatekeepers stopping anyone from writing anything they want – and sometimes that’s a good thing.
In the hope that I can bring back some of the good feelings I had when writing this article, I am sharing it here – because I don’t need to wait till May to credit myself.
Your typical love story
By: Tala Ghalayini
Men whistle and point at her as she passes by. They smirk and make racist remarks, harassing her verbally but they don’t know what she knows. She is in her element, her mind is tougher than their words, and her feet know no boundaries for she is a runner.
Women have had to endure harassments, prejudices, and double standards since probably the beginning of time, and that race is not over. One race they no longer have to fight for though, is the physical one. Thanks to courageous women like Marie-Louise Ledra, Violet Piercy, and Kathrine Switzer, to name a few, who challenged norms and paved the way for female runners everywhere, even in Lebanon. Women such as Maria Pia Nehme and Gretta Taslakian who, in turn, have inspired us, to fight against odds for the things we like and dream of.
Running is like your typical love story. It starts with a crush, an adrenaline rush that sends your stomach on a roller coaster. Slowly and steadily, with plenty of ups and downs, this relationship either grows or ends. The only difference here is that, once it grows, this relationship will always have a happy ending. No matter where this relationship takes you, it will always leave you better than how you started, either physically or mentally. Runners do not wake up one day and want a divorce.
Elga Trad, Maria Pia Nehme, Gretta Taslakian, Ghina Assir, Rita Saade, Mona Lahib and many others are just a few names in the Lebanese running world. They may not have much in common personally or even physically, but their relationship with running is very similar. Running is the forum they have chosen to defy and express themselves. In that challenge, they have managed to mark history as some of the best names in women marathons. Simply said though, they have a love story with running.
These are not super women. They are teenagers who tried out for school races and were noticed by friends, family or coaches. They were supported to continue doing what they loved, without allowing politics, disabilities, or prejudices to get in the way. They are wives, mothers, and daughters, and they could be you.
Mona Lahib not only defied stereotypes, but also physical disabilities when she ranked 2nd in the November 2013 special needs marathon. She defied her body’s limitations and proved to the world that the only limitation that exists is in our mind. Gretta Taslakian decided to compete in a school race and realized she had a gift. Something that with a little bit of practice and perseverance could be her calling in life. Sometimes, all we need to do is to trust our body, to trust that it can take us further than we expect. Her determination and vision has led her, time and time again and even with an injury, to collect medals for outstanding performances and strive to break more records, whether personal or national. In long distance running, Maria Pia Nehme’s story is similar – there are no short cuts, no magical powers, nothing but the resolve to want more, along with a love for running.
These are just a few names for women that fight their inner insecurities, physical limitations, and social prejudices, and in their journey have created room for so many other women to grow. They train in sun and snow, endure harassing remarks as they train on the streets and even risk their lives in a country where drivers have little respect for runners on the street. In fact, Beirut Marathon Association founder May El-Khalil had a serious accident that led her to undergo over 35 surgeries, due to one of these drivers. However, it is women like her and the other female record breakers who are in this love story, that are making it possible for us to start our own.
Kathrine Switzer had to ambiguify her name to enter the all-male boston marathon in 1967. While today, women in Lebanon have a race created only for them. A day to celebrate your talent or discover it! A day to envision yourself as the next Maria Pia or Mona Lahib, or maybe even breaking their records. A day to shed the burdens of everyday life, and to send a message to harassing bystanders, one that says – “you can not outrun us”.
Your love story is waiting.