May El-Khaliil is the founder of the Beirut Marathon, the largest running event in the Middle East. She was inspired to start organizing marathons after her own marathon training was cut short by a near fatal accident.
For the past 10 year, Lebanon has been raging with war, violence, and political turmoil. But once a year, everyone ignores their differences and runs alongside each other in a marathon. May El-Khalil used to run in marathons herself, but a tragic accident nearly killed her and she spent two years recovering in the hospital. During those two years she began to dream up a marathon that would be held in Lebanon. She used the marathon as a way to focus on something other than the pain and it gave her an objective to strive for.
She started travelling across the country sharing her story and convincing people to participate in this marathon. Her passion, honesty and transparency, brought people together. Even though Lebanon was a nation at war and some of these people had never heard of marathons before, the country rallied behind her. In 2003, 6000 runners took their place at the start line and ran for a better future.
When the Prime Minister was assassinated in 2005, a 5k run was held and 60,000 people showed up, setting aside politics and ran wearing plain white t-shirts. Without fail, the marathons have been taking place every year. Last year there were 33,000 participants, both Lebanese and international, that ran through the rain under the umbrella of peace.