May El Khalil | Founder & President of Beirut Marathon Association

May El-Khalil was inspired to start the marathon after a personal tragedy: a near-fatal running accident. Doctors told her she would never run again. She was hospitalized for two years and had to undergo a long series of surgeries. But the resolve from this personal struggle created an event that, each year, draws runners and fans from opposing political and religious communities in a symbolic act of peace. Case in point: In 2012, on a rainy and windy November day, more than 33,000 runners turned out. Other countries around the region are now thinking of replicating this model.

May-El-Khalil_P3My Definition Of Success | For me success means impacting people’s lives positively and making a difference in one’s community.  It also means having the discipline to accomplish the goals that you set for yourself. My definition of success has not changed through the years, what has happened however is that I am accumulating experiences that help me to stay the course of success despite the inevitable setbacks and disappointments.

My Highlights | The highlight of my personal life is my family: my husband, children and grandchildren and every day they make me proud of their achievements. Another personal highlight for me was in the strength I mustered after suffering a near fatal accident and going through years of treatment and therapy to be able to walk again: out of this hardship came the creation of the Beirut Marathon Association and a challenging but very fulfilling career. I would have to say that the highlight of my career was the success of the Association in creating an international Marathon for my home country, one that has garnered many rewards and international recognition, and that is currently a classified as a Silver Label Road Running Event by the IAAF. I am also very proud of having been invited to speak at the TED global conference in Edinburgh Scotland in 2013 where I was able to share the Beirut Marathon Association’s story, and my vision of running as an instrument of peace with an international audience.

The Difference Between Good And Great | I believe that proper training, experience, and ethics make people good at what they do, however what makes people great is Passion, Purpose and Commitment.  Greatness is only achieved when we are passionate about what we do, when we have a vision of our intended goal, and the discipline and commitment to overcome the obstacles.

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A Key Talent | I think a positive outlook is one of my main strengths: I always try to find the upside and the opportunity in a situation. I also see myself as diplomatic in my dealings with people because I think a genuine interest in others, listening to their concerns and validating their issues, makes all the difference in communicating and in achieving goals. If I were to advise young people I would tell them to set goals, and not be afraid to ask for help in achieving those goals. Be single-minded about achieving what you have set out to do, and be flexible about the ways to reach your goal. Don’t kill your ideas or the ideas of others, and always have an open mind to suggestions and to advice. You have to be willing to learn and to acquire new skills and new knowledge.  If you don’t have a strong sense of discipline, you should work on it because success requires discipline and hard work. Most of all stay positive; everyone is attracted to a positive person who believes in his or herself.

Principles I Live By | I strongly believe in integrity, fair play, and going beyond one’s self and looking at the bigger picture in order to make a difference. I also believe in continuously learning and growing and in being disciplined and committed.

Lessons I Have Learnt | I have learned that nearly everything we put our mind to can be possible, that there is a positive aspect to any situation, that patience, tolerance, and an open mind can help you achieve, and that life is an ongoing learning journey where we must be willing to step up to more than we bargained for. Each and every individual is capable of doing so much more than they think they can, but you will never know until you try!

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Dealing With Doubt | I try to distance myself from the negative situation for a short while and meditate and think about how I can turn it around.  I also consult those who are close to me and ask for their assistance and feedback.  At the Beirut Marathon Association and while organizing our running events in Lebanon, a country that is not always politically stable, we encounter many fearful times and a lot of negativity.  We manage to turn the situations around by staying positive and believing in the importance of what we do. If you truly believe in the impact of your actions, the fears and the negativity fade away almost automatically.  For example in 2005, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafic El Hariri was assassinated. I was asked by the sister of the late prime minister to organize a race downtown in order to bring the country back to life. In 2 months, the Beirut Marathon Association put together a 5K run entitled “For the Love of Lebanon.” The political situation was so unstable that I met with the leaders of each political party to ensure that they encourage their followers to join our race under one flag only: Lebanon. That day, over 60,000 people gathered, and for the first time since the assassination.

Performing At My Peak | I make sure that I follow a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and whatever exercise I can manage.  I also surround myself with supportive and positive people, and I dedicate time to my family.  Whenever it is necessary I also take short breaks from work to rejuvenate and come back with a fresh perspective.

On Inspiring Others | It seems that great people find me! Because of the Beirut Marathon Association’s success, we attract some of the best minds to come and work with us.  My main method of motivation is leading by example, I am always energetic, enthusiastic, and eager to accomplish and it trickles down to the rest of the team.  I also make sure that each member of the team knows what is expected of them and I encourage them to seek all kinds of innovative ways and methods that can help them to perform and do their best.