Meet Chirine, the first Lebanese woman to participate in both the Winter and Summer Olympics! After competing in the 2002, 2006, and 2010 Olympics in alpine skiing, she made it back a fourth time to run the marathon at the 2016 Rio de Janerio Olympic Games.
1. How did you transition from skiing to running?
I’ve been skiing since I was three years old. I was skiing competitively in Utah before I moved to Chicago. Once I graduated from the University of Utah, my husband asked me to move to Chicago with him. Moving away from the mountains to live in the city was like starting a whole new chapter of my life, but I decided to go. I'm a competitive person; so I could not just sit still and do nothing. That's when I decided to just start running.
2. Do you prefer skiing or running?
Skiing and running are two entirely different sports. Skiing takes more muscle building and gear, while for running you just need a pair of shoes. At first, I hated running. But as I traveled around Chicago and got to know the little corners of the city that I could never get to in a car, I started appreciating it. That's how it got fun for me. I just love getting outside and being able to disconnect. I usually leave my phone behind so I can enjoy being outside.
3. When did you decide to start running in marathons?
My husband was training with me and at some point we thought ‘Why don’t we run the Chicago marathon so we can scratch it off our bucket list!’ We didn’t really train; we just did our running for fun. But on marathon day, once I was behind that starting line, I just began running. I felt competitive and I just pushed it until I finished. I loved how I felt when I crossed the finish line. I wanted to do it again because I knew I could do better. That’s when I started reaching out to running clubs in the city, like Fleet Feet, and finding coaches. I started running marathons in 2012, and I've done one every year since then. So far I’ve run in 9 marathons.
4. Were you anticipating making it to the Olympics?
Last year, I ran the Chicago marathon in 2 hours and 46 minutes. I didn’t know I had that in me, but I guess training must’ve gone really well! I realized if I shaved two minutes off, I would qualify for the Olympics. That’s when it all came together for me, and I started pushing. My next race in Lebanon, I ran in 2:49:00. Then I came back to America and ran in Houston. That time I ran 2:44:00 and qualified for the Olympics.
5. How do you juggle your daily life and training?
It’s about finding a balanced routine. I run to work in the morning because we have a shower and gym at the office. Then I run back home in the evening. I usually do about 14 miles, 9 in the morning and 4 or more in the evening depending on training. That way I’m not wasting any time in the day. It works out really nicely.
6. How does your athleticism affect your confidence?
After running a marathon, you realize how much you can push your body. To be able to run that distance is not easy. It’s physically challenging, and at some point, it becomes mentally challenging as well. During a marathon, you hit a wall and start asking yourself, ‘Why am I doing this? What is the point?’ But this just is who you are and what you love to do. It builds your confidence because if you can push through a marathon, you know you can push through anything.
7. What motivates you in your training?
Making history for Lebanon. I’m the first Arab female to participate in both the Winter and Summer Olympics. Wanting to represent my country and show that Lebanon has great athletes is what motivated me to get to the Olympics again. Also, just seeing how far I can push myself, that also motivates me.
8. What advice would you give to a young aspiring athlete?
Stay positive! Anything you do, you have to do for yourself. If you run, run because you love it. You can’t overthink it, you just have to love it. Your first marathon, don't have any expectations. Just go out there and run. Listen to your body to push it or walk. I cannot describe how amazing it feels when you cross that finish line. Don’t make it an exercise; make it something fun that you love to do.
9. What is your biggest fear or concern with training?
My husband's and my philosophy is to train for and run the marathon, but not to get injured. I always stay on top of keeping myself healthy. If I feel a little ache, I always check if it’s just a muscle or pain.
10. What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself through your training?
I learned I can push farther than I thought I could. The race in Rio was the hardest one for me because it was so hot. I wanted to stop, but I told myself I had to cross that finish line. After I was done, I realized how strong I am mentally. Once I set my mind to finishing, my body just followed. Everything was in my head.
I had to run back-to-back marathons to qualify for the Olympics. People kept saying it was impossible to do three marathons in three months, but I went full out. My gut was telling me to do it, so I did. Every training I did, I was in tears and exhausted, but on race day, when I wanted that 2:45:00, so I did it. You prove to yourself you can do anything!
11. What’s your favorite outfit?
I definitely think of my outfit before I go out the door and make sure it matches. The brighter the colors, the better; but I stick with black boy shorts because it hides the sweat! I usually wear my Fleet Feet jerseys and sports bras because I’m on the elite team for Fleet Feet. For the Olympics, I wore bikini bottoms for first time and I loved it. They are so light and you feel like you don’t have anything on. I’m actually sponsored by Nike, so I make sure I have my sports bras and all the fun stuff on when I'm training to show it off.