Race

Continuing Nina’s legacy: Getting Ready for 2018 Camp and Race

By Nicole Khamis
Nicole Khamis is part of this year's leadership team and teaching English in Amman, Jordan as a 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholar.

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The first time that my Jordan Fulbright cohort and I heard Nina Brekelman’s story was almost a year ago when we gathered together for the first time in Washington, D.C. The Fulbright Program is an international exchange opportunity for study and research that works to foster intercultural exchange and mutual understanding through different cultures. A key way that Fulbright achieves this is by sending individuals abroad who are passionate about doing this exact thing- and Nina was no exception. Her passing came shortly before she embarked on a Fulbright Fellowship in Jordan to research the experience of female distance runners.

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Nina’s legacy is inherent in the dream of William J. Fulbright, who established the Fulbright Scholarship after World War II to bring a divided world together. Her passion for learning about other cultures, engaging deeply with local communities in Mexico, Egypt, and Jordan, and her love for empowering marginalized communities, shined through in everything she did. Nina’s love for running, Arabic, and her infectious smile are still remembered by the many she worked with and impacted here in Jordan - and we are committed to continuing her legacy here in Amman by organizing the third annual camp and race for girls founded in Nina’s honor.

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The running camp, which will begin Saturday, will once again provide instruction on running training and techniques to young girls ages 8 to 14 to promote healthy living and self confidence. The experience will culminate May 5 at Sports City with a race in which the girls can show what they learned throughout the camp.  

We also are very excited this year to implement a girls leadership program that will give local girls an opportunity to mentor camp participants, and look forward to providing an update on this endeavor in the weeks ahead of us.

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Establishing a running camp in Jordan as a way to empower girls was a vision that Nina put forth for her Fulbright proposal. So, while the Fulbright Team based in Amman has been busy planning this year’s camp, Nina has been on our minds. Through the camp, we hope to empower and uplift other women in hopes of making a lasting impact on the lives of young girls in Jordan.

Announcing Year 3 Dates for the Nina Brekelmans Camp and Race for Girls

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We are excited to announce the dates for the third annual Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls and Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls in Amman, Jordan!

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The camp will be held on four consecutive Saturdays - April 7, April 14, April 21 and April 28 - at Sports City, Amman's premier urban park and athletic facility. The culminating event - a 3k race - will be held the following weekend, May 5, at Sports City.

The camp and race continues to grow with the support of Nina’s family and friends, the U.S. Fulbright program, and our Jordanian friends and partners - including Sports City, Unlimited Distances, Boost, Reclaimed Childhood, Jordan Squash Federation and Ruwaad. Together we strive to advance Nina’s vision to promote self-confidence, leadership, and well-being among young women in Jordan through running.

Camp participants can register here. If you would like to volunteer, you can register here. To follow along, sign up here for our mailing list. And if you’d like to help contribute to our growth, please consider donating. The Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Washington, DC. All donations are tax-deductible.

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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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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! 

Notes from Amman: Gearing up for the 2017 Camp and Race

 The camp leadership team meets in Amman at Sport City to plan for this year's events. (L to R: Bishr Khasawneh, Lilly Frost, Lena Hamvas, Matthew Liston, Ibrahim Abu Asbeh, Batoul Arnaout, and Mohammad Al-Sweity).

The camp leadership team meets in Amman at Sport City to plan for this year's events. (L to R: Bishr Khasawneh, Lilly Frost, Lena Hamvas, Matthew Liston, Ibrahim Abu Asbeh, Batoul Arnaout, and Mohammad Al-Sweity).

By Lena Hamvas

Lena Hamvas is part of this year's leadership team and teaches English in Irbid, Jordan, as a 2016-2017 Fulbright scholar. 

Nina Brekelmans had a mission to improve running infrastructure for girls in Jordan and encourage healthy lifestyles through running, a mission we are determined to follow.

When a fourth grade student of mine heard about the running camp in class, she said, “Yes! I love running. Please, teacher, sign me up!”

When I asked teachers to announce the running camp in class to the girls, they lit up with excitement. One English teacher said, “Wow! That is such a good idea for girls in Jordan. This is wonderful because girls need to learn that they can do sports too, and the community needs more girls doing sports!”

There is a group of girls in Irbid, Jordan (1.5 hours north of Amman) who are taking English classes and heard about the running camp.  From these girls, 9 of 10 girls showed interest in running in the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp.  However, since they are far away from Amman and are not able to come to the camp each week, they have committed to practicing once a week in Irbid as a group with plans to join the girls in Amman for the race.

 Fulbright volunteers at the 2016 race

Fulbright volunteers at the 2016 race

 Campers with Batoul Arnaout, founder of BOOST and a favorite speaker and leader for the camp/race

Campers with Batoul Arnaout, founder of BOOST and a favorite speaker and leader for the camp/race

The local community is very excited about the running camp, and we are very excited to help build the infrastructure to make it all happen!

The Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls will have girls from many different neighborhoods. The girls range in age from  8-14 years old. A group of dedicated volunteers from the community at-large will help make the camp happen. The volunteers will be helping the girls with running practice and understanding the lessons given by guest speakers. We will have guest speakers who will speak about healthy lifestyles and about sports in the community and around the world. This year, the girls will have the chance to interact with runners from the United States who knew Nina Brekelmans. This is a good opportunity to exchange cultures through the love of sports.

After four weeks of camp, the girls will run in a race on April 22. This will give them a chance to use what they practiced during the camp and run in a real race. The camp and race will give the girls a chance to meet people in their communities who like to run and do sports. After the camp ends, we hope the girls will be inspired to continue doing sports in their community throughout the rest of the year.

Now Available - Nina Brekelmans Patches!

We are little more than three weeks away from kicking off the 2nd annual Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls on March 25, and cannot wait to welcome this year’s runners to camp!  

We are on track to achieve our goal of doubling the size of the camp. The Fulbright team is recruiting volunteers, and we’re putting together a great lineup of speakers, potentially even including Olympic runners (more on that to come!). Our coaches and host, Sports City, are preparing for another great camp, as are our many Jordanian friends and sponsors.

We also felt now was the perfect time for our supporters to join us keeping Nina’s spirit in our minds and hearts.

We just received a new order of the popular patches that were created for that very purpose. Nina’s friends and family frequently wear these patches while running or doing other activities in her memory. And if you already have one, consider buying one for someone else!

We think this is a powerful way to promote Nina’s vision to empower young women in Jordan. Plus, you can help us meet our goal to raise $1,500 to ensure our team has supplemental resources to provide our camp-goers and race participants with an exceptional experience. These funds will be used to defray camp costs for transportation and snacks as well as t-shirts, race bibs, and medals.

Buy one, or buy a bunch! You can get one for $12, 3 for $35, or 5 for $50. All proceeds from the patches directly support the camp and race.

Year Two Update: Announcing Dates for the Nina Brekelmans Camp and Race for Girls

We are excited to announce the dates for the 2nd annual Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls and Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls in Amman, Jordan!

The camp will be held on four consecutive Saturdays - March 25, April 1, April 8 and April 15 - at Sports City, the area’s premier urban park and athletic facility in Amman. The culminating event - a 3k race - will be held the following weekend at Sports City.

The camp and race were successfully piloted last spring with the support of Nina’s family and friends and the U.S. Fulbright program. Together, we commemorated her vision to promote self-confidence, leadership, and well-being among young women in Jordan through running.

When the camp started, more than half of the girls had never run 3k. Week by week, the girls learned more about running techniques and training, heard from guest speakers, and bonded over lunch and team activities.

In the end, the girls even made history! With widespread participation from across Jordan, more than 70 girls completed the capstone event: a 3k race through Sports City’s pathways that also happened to be the first girls-only footrace in Jordan.

We are proud to again work with our Jordanian friends and sponsors to carry out this vision. In particular, we’re thankful for our coaches, Mohammad Sweity and Ibrahim Abu Asbeh. And once again, we have a fantastic leadership team of U.S. Fulbright students  - Matthew Liston, Lena Hamvas, and Lilly Frost - to help lead planning and logistics and to build upon last year’s success.

Now, as we ramp up preparations for the upcoming camp and race, our goals cover three areas:

  • Expansion: The initial camp was strategically small in size to provide an attentive, high-quality experience for all runners. This year we aim to double the size of the camp from nearly 25 girls to 50, while retaining a quality and supportive experience for all.

  • New connections: We are piloting a video blogging exchange to connect our young female runners with other female athletes in the US and around the world.

  • Fundraising: We are seeking $3,000 in grant funding from the U.S. State Department to cover transportation, food, and material costs for additional runners, and to expand outreach efforts throughout the Amman community. This will help us as we look to accommodate a greater number of girls from a cross-section of Jordanian society, including the refugee community. Organizers are also seeking additional donations from other foundations and private sources.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll provide more details about camp programming and the race. To follow along, sign up here for our mailing list. If you’d like to help contribute to our growth, please consider donating. The Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Washington, DC. All donations are tax-deductible.

Check out a video recap from the 2016 race for Girls