The headlights of the endless procession of parents’ cars, coming up from the Petit College entrance to pick up their kids, added constantly moving sources of light to the first section of the Jamhour track. At 6:30 it was already night. I did have photos of Sister Rita that I had taken on previous occasions; last of which during this year’s 10K Women’s Race in Byblos, but I knew I needed to take some more, and Sister Rita could only train at night. Sister Rita was in her third year at Notred Dame de Jamhour, teaching Catechism, all the while doing her Masters degree in school management, in all logic.
As I waited by the track, several young runners greeted me, as they jogged by. Some were going to run in the Beirut Marathon for the benefit of the Melanie Freiha fund, their beloved schoolmate and friend who’d passed away earlier this year. They were all trained by the ultra-loved uber-coach Alice Keyrouz, who was known all over the land for finding the most childlike nicknames for all her runners, who seemed not to suffer all that much performance-wise by their adoptive denominations. Sister Rita started training with Alice for the 10K distance only last year, and she was making constant progress. I don’t suppose Alice gave her a nickname, but I wondered whether she had a runner’s mantra.
Being part of a religious order meant that she did not know where she’d be one year from now. Running is that one activity you can most anywhere, on top being a way of life in fact. Right before I drove up to Jamhour that evening, I was watching a restored version of Kurosawa’s 1954 cult classic ‘The Seven Samurai’. In the movie, one of the ronins, hired to defend helpless villagers against outlaws plaging them, and training a group of villagers as it were, to defend themselves tells them: «In battle you’re always running; you run when you attack, and you run when you retreat. When you can’t run anymore, you die.» In his Timothy St. Paul wrote:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.