Past the kilometer 30 mark, running become quite impossible. That’s when most runners simply give up. The runners who do go on, usually repeat a runner’s mantra. In Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s case, for example, it is something that goes like this: pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. As he ran his first ever marathon in Beirut, in 2012, Bertrand kept repeating another phrase he had read of Murakami’s: ‘in a marathon, you don’t walk, you run!’, but Bertrand had other ideas and other leitmotifs racing through his mind; the thought of his two kids, and wife, waiting for him in their home on rue Gouraud, conveniently located not one kilometer from the finish line. Bertrand therefore kept repeating other mantras of the like: ‘I am going home.’
Bertrand is the chairman and general manager of family-owned business that deals with distribution, with several household and luxury brands which the company represents in Lebanon. The company happens to fund ‘Our Lady of Hope’ association, a charity NGO that sponsors students in private schools. Several runners will be taking part in Beirut marathon for the benefit of the foundation, including Bertrand and his wife. Apart from mentioning the foundation, Bertrand was keen on mentioning the CSR side of his family business, on which he had worked hard of late; one of his Masters degrees in Switzerland being in Corporate Social Responsibility, as it were. And Bertrand was indeed proud of the core mission statement he and his team arrived at for the company: ‘Change for Life’ against a photo of hands holding a patch of soil with a plant rising from it. Two hands holding soil from which a young plant is sprouting, I had seen that before, in a movie portraying a lawyer taking on a company called U-North that was definitely modeled after larger than life real multinationals. The lawyer was unwittingly crossing the street in New York on a red light and had some kind of awakening as cars raced towards him.
As the story goes then 2012, the New York marathon was cancelled for the first time ever, and Bertrand did his first marathon ever in Beirut instead. There is no shortage of cars to cross paths with runners, here in Beirut. I wonder what would be the prevalence of near collisions creating various kinds of epiphanies for corporate people, though. Bertrand’s did prep school in France and applied for the concours of the Ecole Normale Superieure, in philosophy. I would like to believe that, had he got in, it would most definitely have been a life changing experience, just as I know that cheering the start in Zeituna bay, and then going up to Martyrs’ Square to see runners reaching the finish line, you are worlds apart. Hopefully this would not be the case for long, and we would get to call it home.