TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Thousands took part in a half-marathon on a sunny Sunday in Tripoli, aiming to restore normalcy to the northern city and showcase its true image.
Under the title “We’ll keep running for peace,” almost 20,000 Lebanese and foreign runners completed the race, which was attended by a number of Tripoli and government officials.
In a protest against violence in the city, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and Sports Minister Abdul-Muttaleb al-Hinawi refrained from firing the traditional shot to mark the start of the race, instead using yellow whistles to open the running.
“This is Tripoli’s real image. ... We want to confirm that the city is a place of coexistence, moderation, peace and sports,” Rifi said at the race, which brought together people of various age groups from his hometown and other Lebanese areas.
“We are seriously working to help the city rise and begin an economic and development plan,” said Rifi, who has taken part in previous Tripoli marathons.
The half-marathon highlights a different image of Tripoli, which has been plagued by the crisis in Syria with supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad engaging in intermittent clashes, leaving dozens killed and severely damaging the city’s infrastructure and economy.
Tripoli MP Robert Fadel noted that the race, now in its fifth year, had taken place even in the most difficult of times, saying that this year's running marked the start of a new developmental phase in the northern city “simply because the absence of development threatens security.”
Amid tight security measures, the half-marathon was divided into three stages: 3-, 7- and 21-kilometer races with Kenyan runner Henry Kibt coming in first place. Kenyans David Tom and John Kosko won second and third place, respectively.
Lebanese runner Omar Eissa was the first Lebanese to finish the 21-km race, followed by Hamzeh Mahmoud.
The event concluded with a concert by Lebanese singers Ziyad Burji and Toufic Toufic after the medal ceremony.
Tripoli has witnessed a prolonged period of calm, after the Army and security forces began implementing a security plan at the beginning of last month to restore law and order in the north and other regions affected by the crisis in Syria.