In the late Summer of 2014, Ramy was chilling on a beach, listening to Bob Marley, and taking a well deserved break from all the training and past races. The phone rings: the mission Red Bull Lebanon gave Ramy —who recently became a Red Bull athlete, a lifelong dream— was simple enough to state, and all the more daunting to accomplish: «You’ve got two months to get ready. Assemble your team to win the Race.» The race he was meant to win was ‘The Sultan of the Desert‘ race; a rather unfortunate title for a race in the U.A.E., but more conveniently, and quite aptly also named ‘The Hardest Race in All the Middle East’.
Ramy gets on the phone, and calls two buddies of his: mountaineering athlete Lindos Daou, and boy wonder mid distance track and field runner Nader Jaber who had Just started making heads turn in the national athletics community . Sure enough, after two months of training, when they get to Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, they’re the talk of the town, and favored to win the Race. Understandably enough the pressure on Ramy and his teammates was proportionate, the eve of the race. Nader won the trail running stage, an achievement by itself. Ramy took over, and was doing good time, his style was aggressive on a unforgiving and dangerous terrain. He had no fear, but neither did he have tubless tires, and the expected happened: he got a flat tire on Kilometer 3.
So, there was Ramy asking one of the race marshall what could be done.
«There’s nothing I can do, you should go back!»
Such was not an outcome Ramy could live with, ever. At that moment, Ramy notices one of the foreign TV cameramen filming him. The guy lowers his camera, and says : «Hey man, you look you’re about to do something crazy!»
«If you’re not crazy, you’re not Living» is something Ramy likes to say, and do. He turns to the young race Marshall again, as he’s taking the wheels off his bike: «Can I trust you?» . The boy nods. «I want you to hold on to that for me. I’ll pick them back after the race.» Ramy hands him his tires, and his all too precious bike shoes, and puts the bike’s carbon frame over his shoulder, and starts running barefoot the 12 kilometers standing in his way and the finish line.
When I interviewed him, some months ago, Ramy told me that although he had accidents in practically every race —like when another biker passed him on the right, and put him in a ditch, during last year’s Aix-en-Provence IRONMAN 70.3 from hell, yet Ramy still manages to finish 44 in his age group— none of the accidents ever gets him down. Maybe its because the guy has Faith, and truly believes that the things Life is throwing at him are by Design, as some kind of test of his mettle; or maybe because Ramy believes that the ones who win straight up, no matter how strongly they believe they’ll go down in History, are barely remembered beyond a week or so, “whereas the ones whose race tells a story that connects to others, well those are the ones who really make History”, beyond the list of names paired with their individual chronographed timings.
As TV crews and press photographers were shooting Ramy at high frame rates, as he ran with bloodied bare soles amid all those cyclists going past him, his two reasons for never giving up or feeling down in the face of adversity, came together in a quite photogenic allegorical way; as a kind of faitful barefoot pilgrim carrying a carbon frame in lieu of a wooden cross —a carbon frame whose aerodynamic shape was cutting through the flesh of his shoulder as a kind of improvised triathlete trinitarian stigmata, instead of cutting through the air as it was designed to do, since a greater Design was most probably at work— and carrying with it one hell of a story for the books, as one would say.
Beyond the half IronMan races here and there, that Ramy would be taking part in, and which he is starting to win for his age group, since Ramy is still 25, I would venture a guess that in five or so, Ramy would go beyond the halves and what not, and accross the Atlantic, to Kona. Whether he wins there, or just finishes the race, I’m betting he’ll have one hell of a story to tell.