Announcing: Memorial Fun Run at Dartmouth College (June 17)

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In memory of Nina, her Dartmouth teammates have organized a memorial fun run during their upcoming Dartmouth 5-year reunion. Thank you to Rocco Pallin and Chrissy Suppino for organizing! From Rocco and Chrissy: 

As many of you know, our fellow alumna Nina Brekelmans ’12 tragically passed away in June of 2015. Greatly accomplished, driven, and humble, Nina was determined to make a difference in every facet of her life.

In her honor, her fellow Women’s Track and Field ‘12s are organizing a memorial run on Saturday, June 17. We invite everyone in Hanover celebrating reunions to join us on Memorial Field at 9 am, where we’ll run one ceremonial lap around the track, gather for a photo, and the ead north from the athletic facilities for a four-mile run through Pine Park. AL unning paces are welcome!

Please sign up ahead of time so we can send the run details and updates in case of poor weather. Contact Rocco Pallin (rspallin@gmail.com) or Chrissy Supino (christinamsupino@gmail.com) with questions! 

Website link: http://ninabrekelmansmemorial.org/2017-dartmouth/

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Saturday, June 17, 2017

9:00 am: Gather on Memorial Field for a lap around the track and photo

Afterwards: Join for a four-mile run through Pine Park

Race Recap: 2017 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls

By Lilly Frost

Lilly Frost is part of the Fulbright leadership team for 2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp and Race for Girls. Lilly has spent the past year in Jordan conducting research for her PhD dissertation. 

Our race day—the exciting culmination of our four-week running camp—kicked off with about fifty local and expat volunteers gearing up for the day. After collecting their race-day t-shirts and some breakfast snacks, the volunteers helped mark and prepare the 3-kilometer race course for the girls. These preparations included a mid-way water station because of the day’s unusually high temperatures (which was a big hit as the girls chugged the water down and dramatically tossed the bottles aside while racing past!).

As the course came together, the participants started arriving, including about 20 girls from Irbid, five girls from the Ghor Valley (northern part of the Jordan Valley), and 45 from East and West Amman, many of whom are refugees. The diverse group of girls warmed up, chatted, and tried on their race-day t-shirts. In the background, a DJ provided by Sports City played music and family members bustled about taking pictures and drinking tea. The special attendance of Farah Hashem, Tamara Armoush, Georgia Cottle, and Hanoia Ali—all award-winning runners in Jordan—helped boost the girls’ energy at the start line.

Just before the race began officials from Sports City, including Dr. Atef, arrived to make brief speeches, wish the girls well, and take pictures with the girls as well as Nina’s family. Then, with three loud horn bellows, Captain Waleed from Sports City’s Squash Federation started the race. The girls took off at a sprinting pace as the crowd clapped and cheered. During the race, the volunteers along the course helped keep the girls on the correct path and provide encouragement. 

At the finish line, volunteers worked meticulously to track each girl’s time by quickly pulling off their bib tags and keeping them in their finishing order. Then, the Brekelmans, including some of their extended family, placed a medal around each girl’s neck and congratulated them on completing the race. Afterward, the girls trotted off to cool down with water and apples.

Once Coaches Ibrahim and Sweity had tallied up the girls’ times, they led a sun-filled ceremony on the steps of the Squash Federation. The ceremony’s speakers included: Nina’s father, Nico Brekelmans; Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation President, Mary Grace Pellegrini; Executive Director of the Binational Fulbright Commission in Jordan, Alain McNamara; and Sports City Public Relations and Media Manager, Laith Al Majali. One of the volunteers, Anas Yousef, helped translate each speech into Arabic or English for the Jordanian and American audiences. These speeches highlighted Nina’s commitment to running and Arabic as well as delivered one central message: “Keep running!”

After the speeches, camp and race co-organizer, Matthew Liston, along with Coaches Sweity and Ibrahim distributed trophies to the top three girls in each age group (8–10 and 11–14 years old). The girls posed proudly, with trophies in hand, for pictures on top of the numbered podiums as the ceremony wrapped up—after which, many of the other girls ascended the podiums for their own personal photos!

The race festivities concluded with an intimate welcome reception thrown by Captain Waleed, on behalf of the Squash Federation, for the Brekelmans family. Over coffee, tea, and cookies, the Brekelmans, Sports City officials, and event organizers discussed the day’s events, running, and Nina’s legacy. Overall, both the camp and race ended on a successful, upbeat note, highlighting this year’s achievements as well as next year’s ambitions.

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Congratulations!

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A MAJOR congratulations to all of our runners at today's Nina Brekelmans Race For Girls! We are so proud of you! In addition to runners from Amman, we were honored to welcome girls from south Jordan and Irbid. You all rock.

Throughout the camp Reclaim Childhood and Ruwwad | رواد التنمية have been indispensable partners. They do amazing work with refugees and youth across Jordan. A large portion of our campers are involved in these two programs, so please take time to check out their work!

Thanks, as always, to our sponsors at نادي مدينة الحسين للشباب/ Al-Hussein Youth City ClubFulbright Jordanمسافات بلا حدود Unlimited DistancesBOOST, and Siniora AlQuds - سنيورة القدس.

And a special thank you to today's volunteers and coaches. Full blog on the race to follow! 

Mabrook!

Race Details: 2017 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls

2017 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls

DETAILS

What: 3K running race for girls ages 8-14

When: April 22, 2017 - registration starts at 9:00 AM, race starts at 10:00 AM with awards to follow 

Where: Al-Hussein Youth City (Sports City) near the Squash Courts (Gate 6)

Registration: Registration is free, and you can sign up at the race 

Awards: Awards will be given to the top 3 girls in each division. We'll have tshirts and medals for all participants. Water will be handed out on the course and at the finish line. We'll 

We are thankful that Sport City has once again agreed to be our presenting sponsor. Likewise, we're grateful for support and backing from Fulbright, Unlimited Distances, BOOST, and the Embassy in Amman. 

For more details, follow along with our Facebook page. Good luck to all of our runners, and remember to stay hydrated for energy. See you tomorrow! 

Running for Nina: Loss and Redemption at the Boston Marathon

This Monday, April 17, 2017, you can find me toeing the line in Hopkinton for the 121st Boston Marathon--specifically wave 2, corral 4, bib 11281. For many people in Massachusetts, they may feel that running the Boston Marathon is their birthright. I will one up that to say that in many ways I owe my actual birth to the Boston Marathon as my parents first began spending time together when my mother was training for her first Boston Qualifier. Running with a cute Louisville medical student seemed like a good way to drop some extra time. She ultimately ran 3:17 to qualify with my dad pacing her through the last 15 miles, and--as they say--the rest was history.  

Over the course of their running careers, my parents competed in a combined five and a half Boston Marathons. When the 100th Boston rolled around, both knew they would want to be part of this monumental event, and they were deliberate to register early qualifying marks. Their passion and pride for this race left an indelible impression on my six-year-old mind. As Patriot’s Day approached, Make Way for Ducklings was in heavy rotation for bedtime reading requests, and on race day, I happily shared with my kindergarten teacher (who was a runner) that my parents were competing in the 100th Boston marathon. That pride was enough to overcome some sheepish embarrassment when she shared this fact with the entire class at morning announcements.  

This Monday it’s my turn to race and my parents’ turn to cheer. I’m so proud to have them here with me to support my efforts to join the family “Boston Club.” As race day draws closer, I realize that I haven’t just been training for the Boston marathon for the past few months; I’ve been preparing for this practically my whole life. And as rewarding as this milestone is, it is not without a dose of unshakable sadness.

This April is approaching the two-year anniversary of the death of my good friend and teammate, Nina Brekelmans, who passed away in a Washington, DC accident. Her death left me devastated, angry, and deeply in despair.  At the same time, I had been robbed of my usual way of coping with sadness--through running--as I had torn my ACL months before in a non-contact soccer injury. I was broken physically and emotionally, and more than ever I longed for the therapeutic rhythm of running to help me find clarity and process the unimaginable. And yet I could barely walk.

On the morning of Nina’s funeral, I was angry at the world. I indignantly shed the full-length leg brace that I had religiously worn for the previous two months and set out for a feeble jog. I wobbled through five minutes of a lopsided crawl before I broke out openly sobbing in the middle of Rock Creek Park. That would be the new normal for the next few months.

I flatly rejected that tragedy would define the end of Nina’s story. She was too good a person--too intelligent, too kind, too loyal--to see that disappear. And as I considered how to honor Nina’s legacy more globally, I knew a small part of that had to begin with me. Nina loved running. Though she came to the sport later in life, she took to running with an unmitigated zeal. In a small, personal way, I knew that I could honor Nina by carrying on with the sport despite any setbacks.

Over the following year, I threw myself into physical therapy and doctor's visits. I ultimately forewent surgery and accepted that, while I would be able to run moving forward, my future in soccer/skiing/tennis/any lateral sport would be over. When I grew weary or began to pity myself, I would often think of Nina and channel her courage to keep going.

And so I trained. I continued running weekly with the Georgetown Running Club (GRC). I entered road races that I wasn’t fit for and logged slower times than ever before. At the same time, I threw myself behind ways to publically remember Nina. I began organizing a memorial 5K at Georgetown University with GRC and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies--Nina’s graduate program--as a way to bring the community together.

Before her death, Nina was preparing to move to Jordan on a Fulbright grant to study the growing women’s athletics movement in Jordan and the broader Middle East. She aspired to create opportunities for women and girls to participate in running as a way to foster women’s empowerment. And to be honest, when Nina first pitched me this idea in the fall of 2014, I silently thought she was crazy. However, it turns out that she was really on to something. In the aftermath of her passing, I began to meet more of Nina’s friends both in the United States and abroad in Jordan. Without fail, people spoke of her kindness, superb command of the Arabic language, and true love for Jordan and its people. It seemed like there was a genuine desire to do something to really honor her life, and this sentiment would ultimately become the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls.

In March 2016, we held the 5K race at Georgetown, which helped reach the final fundraising goal for an endowed scholarship through the Arab studies program in Nina’s name. Similarly, that weekend launched the official start of the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls in Amman. At the end of five consecutive Saturday meetings, nearly 25 girls would participate in the camp, which focused on running and healthy living and included inspirational female speakers, snacks, and games. The camp was organized as a partnership between leaders in the Jordanian running community as well as Fulbright students in Amman. In late March, organizers decided to host our own race for the girls as a capstone event after another race was cancelled. Notably, this would be the first girls-only race in Jordan. I had previously booked a ticket to compete in that now-cancelled race, but fortunately the plans aligned and away I went for the Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls. To my astonishment, nearly 70 girls showed up to Sports City, the premier sports facility in Amman, for a festive race with esteemed speakers, music, and community support. It was fantastic seeing the girls’ pride as they showed off their finishers medals. Equally rewarding was seeing the positive support from mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers as they cheered on the runners to victory.

I returned from Jordan with a renewed resolve to see the camp and race continue. I was also inspired by the grit of our campers and knew that it was time for me to take the next step in my own running comeback. I would need a goal to sustain me through these challenges, and so it seemed like the time to chase the ultimate dream: I would qualify for the Boston marathon. Between April and June, I buckled down and trained, and in late June, I finished second at the Bay of Fundy International Marathon in Maine with a time of 3:20. I was going to Boston.

In the months ahead, things picked up for the camp and race as well. We incorporated as the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation and applied for 501(c)3 nonprofit status. The Foundation raised funds and was awarded a State Department grant to double the size of the camp and race. And all the while, I trained--though maybe not as much as I needed to.

Saturday, April 15 marked the final day of 2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls. This year, our runners represented the full diversity of Jordanian society, including a large portion from refugee backgrounds. The campers diligently trained and learned weekly about nutrition, strength training, self-confidence, and role models. They heard from amazing runners in Jordan and the United States, including American Olympian Abbey D’Agostino, and enjoyed downtime with snacks and creative activities.

On Monday, April 17, I’ll run 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, which is truly a dream come true. On Tuesday, I’ll waddle to Boston Logan airport and catch a flight to Jordan for the second annual Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls on April 22.

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This year has been a whirlwind, and there are so many people to thank who made all of this possible. To list them out individually would probably exceed the length of this already wordy blog, so I’ll do my best to keep it short. I’m grateful for Coach Jerry and my GRC teammates for encouraging my comeback and supporting me even when I lagged at the back of workouts. I’m thankful for a great medical team and close friends who believed in me and cheered for me even when things seemed unlikely. I’m forever indebted to the dedicated board members of the Foundation, our rockstar Fulbright organizers, and amazing coaches and volunteers in Jordan who are the day-to-day force behind the camp and race. And finally, I’m thankful for family--my own parents and the Brekelmans family--who have supported these initiatives on behalf of Nina since day one.

Tomorrow, you can find me in Boston wearing bib 11281 and grinning from ear-to-ear with a “Nina” patch on my GRC jersey. Two years ago on this date I was unable to walk and worried if I’d ever really run again. Now, I’m 26.2 miles away from joining the family “Boston Club.” I never imagined this would be the path to my first Boston marathon, but after all the adversity I consider just being here a victory.

This blog was also shared on the Georgetown Running Club blog at http://blog.grcrunning.com/. 

2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 4 Recap

And just like that, week 4 of the Running Camp for Girls has come to a close! The girls continued to get ready for the Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls next Saturday, April 22 by starting their day with stretching and then running a three-kilometer run that mirrors the race course for next weekend. They also got to hear from Ms. Tamara Armoush, a Jordanian mid- and long-distance runner who placed first among females in the 10-kilometer race on Friday, April 14, along with many other inspiring women who taught them about eating healthy and keeping up with your studies. It was another wonderful day for the campers, coaches, and volunteers. Click below to read a full recap!

2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 3 Recap

Another week of training at Sport City in the books. The girls prepared for the upcoming Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls by continuously running or walking for a full 2k. The fantastic Dr. Dania S. Qaryouti delivered a presentation on healthy eating, which was a highlight of the day. The girls then enjoyed lunch and finished off the day with an activity led by volunteer Kelly Connors to visualize success at their upcoming race! Click below to read a full recap! 

2017 Running Camp for Girls: Coaches Spotlight

With the second annual Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls now in full swing, we want to introduce a few of the people in Amman who make it possible: Coaches Mohammad Al-Sweity, Batoul Arnaout, and Ibrahim Abu Asbeh.

Each of them knew Nina personally, and they have committed their time and energy to help the Foundation fulfill Nina’s mission of expanding opportunities for women in Jordan’s running community. Their combined experience as competitive athletes, coaches, and community leaders proved invaluable for our success in 2016, and we are thankful to partner with them again in 2017.


Mohammad Al-Sweity

Mohammad Al-Sweity has been instrumental to building the camp. As our head coach, Mohammad Sweity plans the weekly training sessions and leads the girls through workouts. He shares instruction on proper running form, stretches, warm-ups, and cool-downs and gives the girls insights into the art of racing. Last year, Coach Sweity gave a poignant presentation on the spirit of running and racing, during which he shared stories about Nina and her time as an athlete in Jordan. When Nina was drafting her Fulbright proposal, she specifically cited Coach Sweity as partner to engage for her research, so we are so thankful to have him on board. In his free time, Coach Sweity is an esteemed ultra-distance runner in Jordan. 


Batoul Arnaout

Batoul Arnaout also joined us during the inaugural year and assisted with workouts, group activities, and event planning. As both a competitive athlete and the founder of a local organization that promotes sports in society, BOOST: Better Opportunities and Options for Sports Today, Coach Batoul is well-versed in overcoming the challenges that face young women in pursuing athletics in Jordan. This year, she talked with the girls about how running improves self-esteem, promotes a positive body image, and fosters strong and healthy relationships within the community. Batoul is an amazing and inspirational athlete, and we're similarly thrilled to have her support. 


Ibrahim Abu Asbeh

Last but not least, Ibrahim Abu Asbeh has worked closely with us since the beginning to transform our idea of a camp for girls into a reality. Coach Ibrahim was the catalyst for meetings between our Fulbright team and the leadership at Sports City, which helped us secure access to facilities for the athletes, obtain a sponsorship for lunches during the camp, and gain access to the Sports City running trails to host the race. In addition to helping us with the camp logistics, he also coaches the athletes during each of the practices. In 2016, Coach Ibrahim surprised us all by initiating a series of relay races that ended up being one of the most fun and memorable episodes from camp. He has poignantly spoken about his friendship with Nina at the camp, and we're so grateful to have his involvement. In addition to being a runner in his own right, Coach Ibrahim is also the General Secretary of the Jordanian Athletics Federation. 

Many thanks to Coaches Sweity, Batoul, and Ibrahim for the time and effort they are dedicating to the camp and race!

2017 DC Run/Walk Hosted by Georgetown CCAS

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By Michael Brill, Foundation Advisor and Georgetown Alum (MAAS '16)

On March 19, 2016, nearly 200 runners came together on Georgetown University’s Copley Lawn for the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Scholarship 5k. It was a special day in which Nina’s spirit was powerfully felt: The race proceeds helped fund an endowed scholarship at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS). Meanwhile, the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls launched in Amman, Jordan.

April 23, 2017 will provide another opportunity to come together on the Georgetown campus in Nina’s memory. Nina’s professors from CCAS have organized a relaxed run and walk that will shine light on the progress that has been made to carry forward Nina’s vision. We will also be collecting donations for the running camp.

Beginning at 8:30 a.m., friends and colleagues will gather at the main CCAS suite, room 241 of the Bunn Intercultural Center (to reach CCAS, take the stairs or elevator down one floor after entering through the eastward-facing main entrance of the Intercultural Center building). After everyone has gathered in CCAS, there will be a community 5K run/walk starting at 9 a.m., followed by a breakfast and opportunity to share memories of Nina back at CCAS around 10 a.m.


Please RVSP at Eventbrite for this event.  We look forward to seeing you there!

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2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 2 Recap

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Week 2 marked another fun week of training at Sport City in Amman! We were honored to have two amazing speakers, Batoul Arnaout and Abbey D'Agostino, present to our campers this week. The girls completed a new portion of the Sports City trails in preparation for the April 22 race, and we passed out official camp tshirts! 

Batoul Arnaout

Batoul Arnaout

Abbey D'Agostino

Abbey D'Agostino