Founder of Beirut Marathon May El-Khalil wins Laureus Sport for Good Award
Laureus World Sports Academy salutes an inspirational woman who is using sport to bring reconciliation to a divided city…
The Laureus World Sports Academy has honoured a remarkable woman who is using sport to bring reconciliation to one of the most divided and war-torn cities on Earth. May El-Khalil was a popular recipient of the Laureus Sport for Good Award in Abu Dhabi which celebrated her work in creating the Beirut Marathon which has become an inspiration to the whole of Lebanon and has brought people together from opposing political and religious communities.
After an emotional introduction, May El-Khalil received the Laureus Award, and said: “I would like to thank, as well, Lebanon and the Lebanese who believed in my mission. Back in 2003 my country, Lebanon, had just emerged from a civil war. There was nothing civil about it. I decided to be part of the nation-rebuilding process. I wanted to pay back to my community and I wanted to help through the power of sports. I believed in running, and I felt that running would definitely help in rebuilding a divided society. Despite all the conflicts that had been going on through all the years, wars, assassinations, political instability, the Marathon kept on going.
“30,000 people gather every year at the startline of the BLOM Beirut Marathon and they all run for love. They run for the love of their country, they run for unity and they run for charity. Most importantly, they run for peace. This is the mission of sport, and this is what the Marathon has been all about. We have been running for peace, and we will continue running for peace in the Middle East.”
The story of May El-Khalil is an inspiration for those who believe in the power of sport. She was in hospital in Beirut in 2001 after a near fatal road accident wondering when or if she would be able to walk again, when the idea came to her that she should create a marathon in the heart of a city that had endured so much. Beirut at that time had suffered considerably as different communities and religious factions fought each other and powerful neighbouring states were using it as a battleground.
Once recovered and out of hospital, following more than 20 operations, as President of the Beirut Marathon Association, in 2003 she launched the first Beirut Marathon, which attracted 6,000 runners and hundreds of volunteers, of a variety of ages, backgrounds and cultures, all forgetting their differences and working together to create a sporting event which made a massive social statement on behalf of the people of Lebanon.