Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)
Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Alexandria’s first half marathon

A huge turnout and carnival atmosphere greeted the first-ever half marathon held in Alexandria last week, reports Ameera Fouad 

Starting point at Qaitbey Citadel

“I did it. I did it,” cried Mariam Mahmoud, 28, a student who successfully crossed the finishing line of Alexandria’s first-ever half marathon held in the coastal city last week. 

In an ecstasy of mixed feelings of happiness and tears, Mahmoud was amazed that she had been able to complete the race, successfully running 21km. Mahmoud had only started practicing with the Alex Runners group last year, and she thought that she might have to stop in the middle of the race. 

“I am not an athlete. I do not define myself as a runner. Today was a huge challenge. But the impossible became possible,” Mahmoud said.

“The race is cost free. All you need is your sneakers,” commented Al-Sayed Noah, 63, who had come all the way from Cairo to participate in the half marathon last Friday. 

“Age is just a number. I enjoy every minute of my life. Despite my diabetes and my heart problems, I enjoy running every day,” added Noah, who was not the only person who had come from elsewhere to attend the event. More than 1,200 participants from all over Egypt had come to take part in the Mediterranean city’s carnival of running.  

People from different walks of life and of different ages took part in the half marathon. They did not only share their passion to run and their desire to lead a healthy lifestyle, but also the slogan “Run for Your Life” of the Alexandria half marathon that sees running as a hobby and as part of everyday life. 

Parents had come to encourage sons and daughters who were sources of inspiration for them. “I remember the time my mum used to walk on the club track and I used to walk with her. She is also a great tennis player and made me love sport,” said competitor Jadiaa Hamada who set a new record for herself when she completed half the marathon in just one hour and 50 minutes.

However, the marathon had its own difficulties for both amateurs and professionals alike. The running track started from the Qaitbey Citadel and led to the Montazah Palace, going through some sometimes crowded areas. 


Jaidaa Hamada

“It all went very well along the Corniche, but the running track became more difficult inside the Montazah Gardens,” said Mohamed Khamis, an actor who had been keen to join the marathon.

“We faced hills and streets around Montazah, but as someone from Cairo, what I enjoyed the most was the beauty of Alexandria that extended all along the Corniche,” Khamis added. 

The event was organised by the Alex Runners, a group of young people from Alexandria who started the initiative four years ago. Their vision is to encourage more people to run, to be active, and to lead healthy and positive lifestyles. 

“It is a festival full of colour,” said Mohamed Hilal, an Arabic teacher in his mid-30s. “While I was running, the cheering people along the Corniche kept me going. Even when I felt like giving in, these young people kept on encouraging me to go on,” he added.

Yalla Ya Batel” (go on, champion) was one of the signs lifted by the cheer groups. “We planned for this event very well and brainstormed many ideas so that we could come up with motivational words which would make all the difference to the competitors,” said Mai Omar, 27, one of the organisers. 

Public figures, actors, and sports champions took part in the marathon, which brought together many Egyptian families. Nour Al-Sherbini and Farida Othman, Egypt’s squash and swimming champions, were present. They were key figures who honoured the winners and gave a huge boost to the event. 

“When kids see their role models joining such events, this helps to create a healthier younger generation that honours sports and respects each other,” said Ayman Hussein, one of the role models.

Hussein, who has always struggled with his weight, was able to lose more than 40kg with Alex Runners during a one-year period. He has now become a role model and a source of inspiration for others.

 “We were keen to invite celebrities like Al-Sherbini, Othman, and Khamis as well as actress Dorra to show people that celebrities also play sport and lead healthy lifestyles,” Hussein added.

Schools in Alexandria were keen to participate in the marathon with their students, staff members, parents, and principals. “We are here to have a family fun time and to do something good for the community,” said April Flowers, principal of the Forsan American School in Alexandria. “I’m proud of the pupils who ran very hard today,” she said. 

The event saw races for each age group. It was an unsigned contract that everyone could participate in the event and everyone could compete. Besides the marathon, there were also races of 10km and a family run and kids challenge.

The event saw a huge turnout of foreigners as well. “Today, I see Alexandria differently. I see Alexandria as so beautiful. I see a very organised and civilised city,” commented Christina from Germany who works at the Deutsche Schule der Borromäerinnen. “It is a very happy event, indeed,” she added. 


Habiba

Because charity is part and parcel of the Alex Runners’ policy, community service is a key element in all their events. Revenue raised by this event will be given to charity to help children with congenital anomalies. 

“It is not the first time our association has coordinated with the Alex Runners to help purchase an incubator or help maintain and develop departments in Alexandria’s hospitals,” said Saber Wahib, head of the Paediatric Surgery and Congenital Anomalies Department at Alexandria University.

“When we see children with anomalies that can be cured, we feel it is our role to reach out to the community for help. This is what we find with Alex Runners. They help us to secure the funds we need for these patients to help them lead normal lives,” he added.


The writer is a freelance journalist.

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