Yet another first place. Aregu Sisay, the Ethiopian housekeeper, is raking them in at the moment. 10 kilometers in Naqoura (39:46), 5K in Jbeil (18:31), both in March, the 5000 meters at Jomhour and at AUB (19:10) in April, and this morning the 10K in Ain Mreiseh race, in a mere 39:32. With a serious bronchitis, no less. Then there was the ISF half marathon last month (21K), in 1:29:34, in which she was narrowly beaten by a police woman, Soujoud Salem, from Jordan. And there are still 2 big races coming up; one being the 5K women race from the Beirut Marathon in June.
We’ll be adding yet another shelf in her room for her trophies. She’s worrying about how she’s going to get them all home: Ethiopian Airlines has a 40 kilos luggage limit. All these cups stand on a marble pedestal, and she’s well beyond the 40 kilos by now. And she’s not counting medals.
And although we’re not on Olympic level here (see for World Records below), she’s slowly chipping away at her time.
The world record for 5K stands at 14:46 , and for 5,000 meters at 14:11. The world record for the 10K and the 10,000 meters are at 30:21 and 29:31 respectively. There’s a difference between running on the road (K) and on the track (meters), hence the different times, I was explained by her trainer.
You have to keep in mind that she has no knowledge (and neither do I) of what she should eat in order to improve her running, so there’s no balanced diet. Her trainer finally convinced her to lay off on the diet-Coke, but that is as far as it gets.
Another (huge) factor is that she is a working woman; she trains and runs in between her job, which – like any housewife can tell you – is strenuous and never-ending. This week she picked up a cough that has been passed on by the other household members, and has not been feeling well most of the time.
She can be pretty stubborn at times as well, and good advice – further complicated by a language barrier - is not always heeded.
So all things considered, that’s pretty awesome. But there is even more hope on the horizon. Her club, Inter-Lebanon, has decided to dispatch her to the French Pyrenees this summer for a month long intensive training camp, together with the other top runners of her club. Then in October, there’s the Amsterdam marathon in Holland, and from then on, we’ll see. Pretty good for a country girl who, until she came to Lebanon, never ran.
I am – and I’ve said it many times - in awe of the runners’ community in Lebanon. It’s a group of people from all walks of life, all religions and (slowly but surely becoming one of) all social groups as well. They merge wonderfully well, because all that matters is the chronometer. “What was your time?” is the first thing they ask each other at the finish line. It’s a good mixture of civilians and military people as well. The Lebanese army’s got some good runners; most of the top male runners come out of the army.
The fact that they’re up and about at 6:30 in downtown on a Sunday morning indicates a pretty healthy life style as well. I’d be running too if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve got like zero discipline.
She's 23, still too young to be a top runner for marathons, they tell me. Marathon runners peak much later. But she's got the genes. One day, when she will be running New York, Boston and Rotterdam, you can say: I've know about this lady all along, because I have followed her career from the start. Don't forget; you read it here first.