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  • I come from Lebanon,

  • and I believe that running can change the world.

  • I know what I have just said is simply not obvious.

  • You know, Lebanon as a country has been once destroyed

  • by a long and bloody civil war.

  • Honestly, I don't know why they call it civil war

  • when there is nothing civil about it.

  • With Syria to the north, Israel and Palestine to the south,

  • and our government even up till this moment

  • is still fragmented and unstable.

  • For years, the country has been divided between politics and religion.

  • However, for one day a year,

  • we truly stand united,

  • and that's when the marathon takes place.

  • I used to be a marathon runner.

  • Long distance running was not only good for my well-being

  • but it helped me meditate and dream big.

  • So the longer distances I ran,

  • the bigger my dreams became.

  • Until one fateful morning,

  • and while training, I was hit by a bus.

  • I nearly died, was in a coma,

  • stayed at the hospital for two years,

  • and underwent 36 surgeries to be able to walk again.

  • As soon as I came out of my coma,

  • I realized that I was no longer the same runner I used to be,

  • so I decided, if I couldn't run myself,

  • I wanted to make sure that others could.

  • So out of my hospital bed,

  • I asked my husband to start taking notes,

  • and a few months later, the marathon was born.

  • Organizing a marathon as a reaction to an accident

  • may sound strange,

  • but at that time, even during my most vulnerable condition,

  • I needed to dream big.

  • I needed something to take me out of my pain,

  • an objective to look forward to.

  • I didn't want to pity myself, nor to be pitied,

  • and I thought by organizing such a marathon,

  • I'll be able to pay back to my community,

  • build bridges with the outside world,

  • and invite runners to come to Lebanon

  • and run under the umbrella of peace.

  • Organizing a marathon in Lebanon

  • is definitely not like organizing one in New York.

  • How do you introduce the concept of running

  • to a nation that is constantly at the brink of war?

  • How do you ask those who were once fighting

  • and killing each other

  • to come together and run next to each other?

  • More than that, how do you convince people to run a distance of 26.2 miles

  • at a time they were not even familiar with the word "marathon"?

  • So we had to start from scratch.

  • For almost two years, we went all over the country

  • and even visited remote villages.

  • I personally met with people from all walks of life --

  • mayors, NGOs, schoolchildren,

  • politicians, militiamen,

  • people from mosques, churches,

  • the president of the country, even housewives.

  • I learned one thing:

  • When you walk the talk, people believe you.

  • Many were touched by my personal story,

  • and they shared their stories in return.

  • It was honesty and transparency that brought us together.

  • We spoke one common language to each other,

  • and that was from one human to another.

  • Once that trust was built,

  • everybody wanted to be part of the marathon

  • to show the world the true colors of Lebanon and the Lebanese

  • and their desire to live in peace and harmony.

  • In October 2003, over 6,000 runners

  • from 49 different nationalities

  • came to the start line, all determined,

  • and when the gunfire went off,

  • this time it was a signal to run in harmony,

  • for a change.

  • The marathon grew.

  • So did our political problems.

  • But for every disaster we had,

  • the marathon found ways to bring people together.

  • In 2005, our prime minister was assassinated,

  • and the country came to a complete standstill,

  • so we organized a five-kilometer United We Run campaign.

  • Over 60,000 people came to the start line,

  • all wearing white T-shirts with no political slogans.

  • That was a turning point for the marathon,

  • where people started looking at it as a platform

  • for peace and unity.

  • Between 2006 up to 2009, our country, Lebanon,

  • went through unstable years,

  • invasions, and more assassinations

  • that brought us close to a civil war.

  • The country was divided again,

  • so much that our parliament resigned,

  • we had no president for a year, and no prime minister.

  • But we did have a marathon.

  • (Applause)

  • So through the marathon, we learned that political problems can be overcome.

  • When the opposition party decided to shut down part of the city center,

  • we negotiated alternative routes.

  • Government protesters became sideline cheerleaders.

  • They even hosted juice stations.

  • (Laughter)

  • You know, the marathon has really become one of its kind.

  • It gained credibility

  • from both the Lebanese and the international community.

  • Last November 2012, over 33,000 runners from 85 different nationalities

  • came to the start line,

  • but this time, they challenged a very stormy and rainy weather.

  • The streets were flooded, but people didn't want to miss out

  • on the opportunity of being part of such a national day.

  • BMA has expanded.

  • We include everyone: the young, the elderly,

  • the disabled, the mentally challenged,

  • the blind, the elite, the amateur runners,

  • even moms with their babies.

  • Themes have included runs for the environment,

  • breast cancer, for the love of Lebanon, for peace,

  • or just simply to run.

  • The first annual all-women-and-girls race for empowerment,

  • which is one of its kind in the region,

  • has just taken place only a few weeks ago,

  • with 4,512 women, including the first lady,

  • and this is only the beginning.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • BMA has supported charities and volunteers

  • who have helped reshape Lebanon,

  • raising funds for their causes

  • and encouraging others to give.

  • The culture of giving and doing good has become contagious.

  • Stereotypes have been broken.

  • Change-makers and future leaders have been created.

  • I believe these are the building blocks for future peace.

  • BMA has become such a respected event in the region

  • that government officials in the region,

  • like Iraq, Egypt and Syria,

  • have asked the organization to help them structure a similar sporting event.

  • We are now one of the largest running events in the Middle East,

  • but most importantly,

  • it is a platform for hope and cooperation

  • in an ever-fragile and unstable part of the world.

  • From Boston to Beirut, we stand as one.

  • (Applause)

  • After 10 years in Lebanon,

  • from national marathons or from national events

  • to smaller regional races,

  • we've seen that people want to run for a better future.

  • After all, peacemaking is not a sprint.

  • It is more of a marathon.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I come from Lebanon,

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B1 TED marathon lebanon peace organizing country

【TED】May El-Khalil: Making peace is a marathon (Making peace is a marathon | May El-Khalil)

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    Max Lin posted on 2016/01/11
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