BEIRUT: At just 24 years old, Maria Kiwan has pushed a tremendous amount of boundaries.
Kiwan’s journey began when she moved to the North of Lebanon for university, where she was able to nurture her interest in running.
She ran on campus leisurely, and later ended up joining the track and field team. She wanted to push herself further and started running almost daily for 10 to 15 km on her own or with friends.
Kiwan took up competitive running in 2015 when she was asked by the dean of student affairs to represent the University of Balamand at the Beirut Marathon.
“Training was really intense: six times per week and usually starting at around 5 am,” Kiwan told Annahar. “It is not an easy process at all. It is sometimes painful and always tiring. But, it is definitely rewarding and enjoyable.”
After two months of training under the guidance of her coach Dan Crisan, the athlete became the winner of her age group at the race, arriving at the finish line in under four hours at the Beirut Marathon in 2015. She went on to achieve first place in her age category for the next two years consecutively, citing 3h35min as her best win.
Kiwan emphasizes that her true accomplishment lies in the people she was able to inspire and motivate throughout her journey.
Kiwan went on to compete in several other national championships and joined the "Let’s Run" club.
Kiwan added that she is “proud to have participated in the Women’s Race in most of its editions and to have stood on its podium in 2018,” asserting that it carries empowering messages for women and their capacity to fulfill their dreams.
In the past year, the athlete coached a group of beginner runners under the 542 program, a Beirut Marathon Association initiative to train new participants. She said “they all made it to the finish line on November 11.”
Kiwan expressed her love of the outdoors. This led her to take up trail running as a pastime; an activity that she considers is not yet well-developed in Lebanon. She went on to co-create #trailday with her partner by assembling a group of people who similarly enjoyed trail running.
The athlete also finds joy in travelling and exploring scenic trails. In 2015 she went cycling from Paris to Geneva for a total of 700 km in order to raise funds for Oum Al-Nour, a drug rehabilitation center, and to help them renovate their sports facilities.
Encouraging women to run is important for Kiwan.
“Through running, you build a distinctive personality and identity that nobody can take away from you,” she said, adding that people don’t necessarily have to compete to be runners and that “everyone can be a student, everyone can land a decent job, and everyone can be a runner. But, it takes someone special to be all of these things at the same time.”
Kiwan graduated in 2017 with an MSc degree in Accounting and Finance, and currently holds a job at Emirates Airline. Her motto, as she puts it, is “running mountains, collecting moments.”
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.