Firstly, tell us about your history in ski racing.
Since I was really young, like 3 years old, I was skiing – but around 8-9 is when I started to watch it on TV and that’s when I really fell in love with it. On the weekend I’d go to the mountains I would try to do exactly the same thing [as Alberto Tomba]. I began racing in Lebanon (where I’m originally from) and I traveled all across Europe for it. When the Olympics were getting closer in 2002 (SLC Games) I started looking at Utah and academies where I could continue ski racing while studying.
My parents were really supportive, they trusted me 100% so I did everything possible to focus on my skiing.
What initiated your transition into marathon/distance running?
I never thought I’d be a distance runner. Ski racing is all about power, so it was back squats, front squats, and sprints up the hill. Every time we’d play soccer with the team I [thought] “this is miserable”.
What really changed was when I moved to Chicago. I met my husband and I was graduating from the University of Utah, so I was ready for the next phase in my life and traded the mountains for the skyscrapers. I honestly thought that I just wanted to be a normal person. I never wanted to do anything competitive. But for the first year I moved, I didn’t have a job and would go around and explore the city.
I started hearing about the Shamrock Shuffle, an 8k in Chicago, and thought it would be fun – then began hearing about the Chicago Marathon. So I thought, “how cool would it be to make a list of things I want to do in life”?
I started running around, adding 3-4 miles here and there. The 2012 Shamrock Shuffle was my first race and I was exhausted. I think my competitive side came out then and I wanted to do it more. I decided to do the Chicago Marathon, running it in 3hr 7min. I was hooked.
Is there anything specific you think has carried over to make you a successful distance runner?
I think an advantage I have is that I am much more muscular than the typical runner. I think that has helped me stay healthy over all the years and I’ve never (knock on wood) had an injury [from running].
From skiing to running is a big change, but to me, it’s kept it exciting.
Do you have any favorite experiences?
I love going back home to Lebanon. When I go to Lebanon, my focus is all about how I can motivate the younger generation to kind of look up and say “this is what I want to do”. I really look forward to going home and running the streets of Beirut. Trying to PR there is not my focus, it’s more to be there in support and encourage the younger generation.
What keeps you going day-to-day in the process?
I love training. During COVID, when racing was gone, I never stopped training. I love how it makes me feel, pushing my body, and I love the challenge. I’m very competitive, so when it comes to racing that [side of me] is always there, but I could train every day and I’m very satisfied and happy with it.
When I have a day off, something feels off. I love going out going for my early, early morning run, getting coffee, and doing my routine.
Has there been anything specific in training that has kept you in balance and made a difference?
Yeah, nutrition plays a huge part. Staying healthy, it takes a lot of taking care of yourself recovering, eating right, and stretching…those are the parts that people ignore a bit. Coming back from two knee injuries (from skiing), [has taught me] that taking the time to do those things is really important.
How do you manage fueling for a marathon?
Most importantly, I focus on staying hydrated. On the days I don’t, I feel sluggish, heavy, and something doesn’t feel right. The harder the training becomes, the more I start focusing on my nutrition. After every workout, if I don’t eat well or have any sort of post-training fuel, I honestly don’t know if I could get up the next day.
Any time I have a long run, I try to treat it as if it’s a race day. I’ll get up, have a piece of toast, a banana, some honey, and a coffee. During my run, I’ll have gels or Maurten in my bottles (if someone is biking with me). I’m very particular with it so it’s the same as race days. Every 3 miles I’ll try to drink my Maurten or have my gel and keep that going until I finish my run.
As soon as I finish I’ll try to have something right away. I used to train with Ryan Hall and he told me to “eat candy”, which you’d think is not the right thing to do but it’s one way to fuel your body with some sugar and keep me going until I come home and have breakfast.
What’s an ideal day for you?
The weekend is a perfect example. I love waking up as early as possible in the morning while it’s all quiet. I go for my run, have a nice breakfast, and then walk the puppy and hang out.