SIDON, Lebanon: The second edition of the Sidon marathon kicked off Sunday morning in the southern coastal city, as some 25,000 runners competed in six races. The 2019 marathon, which was organized by the Saida International Marathon Association in coordination with the Sidon Municipality and the Lebanese Athletics Federation, gathered the athletes and their fans under the banner “We Run for the Environment and Peace.”
“We are counting on the people of Sidon to show the city and the country in their best light, and to show how many people in Sidon love life,” Nasser Hammoud, the head of the Saida International Marathon Association, told The Daily Star before the race.
The number of people who took part in the 42-kilometer run was up from the about 17,000 who competed in Sidon’s inaugural marathon in 2017.
At 7 a.m., those running the full marathon, as well as participants in the 21-kilometer adults’ race and the 21-kilometer special needs race, took off. The 7-kilometer competitive race followed at 8:30 a.m., after which families jogged together in the 1-kilometer Run with Parents race at 9 a.m. Participants in the 7-kilometer Fun Run brought up the rear, setting out from the gate at 9:30 a.m.
The start of the Fun Run featured the release of white doves to symbolize peace. Two Army helicopters with the Lebanese flag in tow flew over the course and the city.
Sidon’s Fishermen Syndicate also organized a boat journey alongside the runners, taking off from the fishermen’s port toward the city’s northern waterfront.
Over 400 volunteers turned out to help the runners. Many carried signs in support of causes including women’s rights and environmental protection. A number of musical acts also performed.
The marathon was held under the patronage of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was represented at the event by his aunt, local MP Bahia Hariri. Sidon Mayor Mohammad al-Saudi, members of the municipal council and other local officials also attended.
Several of them even participated in the Fun Run, including former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, South Lebanon Gov. Mansour Daou and Future Movement Secretary-General Ahmad Hariri.
Bahia Hariri also joined in. She said the race was a success for the city of Sidon, not just for individuals.
“We have much shared common ground, and this common ground is a message of joy from Sidon to the rest of Lebanon. ... We want to put the country back on its feet. This message is the first step that Saad Hariri has taken to say, ‘Lebanon can overcome the crises it is going through,’” she told The Daily Star.
She also commented on the race’s motto, seizing the opportunity to congratulate Sidon on being “the first city of its size to implement sorting from the source,” in reference to her waste-sorting project, “Sidon Can Sort,” launched last year to mark World Cleanup Day.
“The most important thing is that the marathon has created a space for joy because happiness makes others happy, which is what we see today in the eyes of the young and old,” Hariri said.