After I shot the start, against the morning Maasser el Chouf landscape, I hitched a ride in an army bus and we drove past the last runners. Most of runners start having doubts about reaching the end but then they would see Walid coming towards them, returning to run by their side the remainder of the course.
Once he reached the finish line, Walid turned round and went back out there, to catch up with his Beirut 542 team members still on the road. Again and again he would pace his teammates in their final mile. It was beautiful to watch. The final yards were around the corner, in the winding mountain road of Khraibeh, and you could see Walid point the way and let his teammate run the final yards on their own, as he went back for another teammate still out there.
In soccer, you run up and the down the field all the time. A favorite pastime for Walid, he used to do that in a past when he played with local soccer teams in Beirut. It wasn’t the same as running long distance though. In team sports, one team is pitted against another, and the goal is to beat that other team, and in a place like Lebanon, all the things that divide us rise up to the surface and people shout them out, unashamedly. At one point in his life, Walid no longer wished to hear those words. He went running all by himself in the dead of night. He would see the sunrise as he reached the white sand dunes of Ramlet el Baida.
Walid’s been running since the 90s, so when the BMA launched its very first marathon, it was a match made in heaven. Walid never missed a race, and went on to become a 542 team leader, training new marathon runners every year. This year is special though, with many races serving as training for November’s marathon.