The Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls was established in 2016 to fulfill Nina’s vision of building self-confidence, leadership, and well-being among young women in Jordan through running. The initiative's first year was supported with funding from the Nina Brekelmans Community Service Prize as well as private donations.
In its inaugural year, the camp hosted nearly 25 girls ages 8-14 for five consecutive Saturdays in March and April. The camp covered a range of topics designed to promote girls' health, wellness, and self-esteem. The program culminated with a 3km race at Sports City in Amman, which was open to girls from across Jordan.
We're lucky to have an excellent team of coaches and volunteers to make the camp possible. Likewise, thank you to our sponsors Sports City and Fulbright for your generous financial support. If you'd like to help support this year's camp (and race), you can also donate here:
2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls Information
The 2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls will be held on four Saturdays in March and April, including March 25, April 1, April 8 and April 15. Campers meet near the squash courts at Sports City to train on the jogging trails.
2017 Leadership Team
Coaches: Mohammad Al-Sweity, Ibrahim Abu Asbeh, Batoul Arnaout
Fulbright Leadership Team: Matthew Liston, Lena Hamvas, Lilly Frost
2017 WEEKLY CAMP RECAPS
Week 4 (April 15)
Our last and final camp day started with the girls registering for the race next Saturday, April 22. Then, Coach Ibrahim led the girls in stretches. As the girls were in a circle around him, he introduced three camp guests. First, Ms. Tamara Armoush, a Jordanian mid- and long-distance runner who has broken three Jordanian running records and who was the first-place female competitor in the 10-kilometer race on Friday, April 14, as part of the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon. Second, Ms. Georgia Cottle, a runner from Scotland who was the first-place female competitor in the 21-kilometer race at the Dead Sea on Friday, and third, Ms. Hanoia Adam, a runner on Sudan’s national long distance team. She trains in Jordan and has won the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon several times. Hanoia was also one of Nina's closest friends and training partners in Jordan!
Coach Ibrahim explained that girls are strong and highlighted these three guests as prominent examples and role models. To emphasize this point, he shouted several times “what are girls” to which the girls responded enthusiastically “STRONG!!” He then invited each of the guests to lead a few of their favorite pre-run warm-ups. Next, Coach Ibrahim led the girls and guests on a three-kilometer run that mirrored the race course for next Saturday. The girls did a good job of running, even after some of them had to take breaks to walk in between. Finally, they wrapped up the exercise portion of the day with sets of sprints. Coach Ibrahim broke the girls up into groups of four, which allowed many girls to boast afterward about coming in first or second place. The sprints always get the girls excited about running and competing!
Our final lecture came from Ms. Farah Hashem, who is a Jordanian sprinter with the fastest time in Jordan for the 60-meter race. In addition, as part of a Jordanian team, she won third place in the 4x400-meter relay at the last West Asia Indoor Championship. She talked about being a female runner in Jordan and emphasized that being a good runner requires not just athletic training but also eating healthy and keeping up with your studies. She described her path to becoming a runner, starting as a soccer player, becoming part of a track team, and eventually winning a bronze medal at the West Asia Indoor Championship. She also highlighted the importance of her studies at the American University of Beirut, from which she graduated recently, while continuing to run seriously there. She concluded by answering the girls’ questions about her path and running. During the Q&A, she emphasized that she is as passionate about her studies as she is about running as well as how this has helped lead to her success. By the end, she had inspired the girls, their chaperones, and the other volunteers.
Before lunch (once again generously donated by Siniora Food Industries), the girls watched a video put together by Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation President, Ms. Mary Grace Pellegrini. The video featured different U.S. university-level runners and coaches discussing why they love running, when they started running, as well as advice for competing in a race for the first time. The girls learned that it is important to enjoy running, something that comes more easily through the friendships formed with teammates, as well as to pace themselves while running—rather than start off sprinting, which is something the girls love to do!
After lunch, Coach Ibrahim and the volunteers organized group pictures and a small ceremony to present each camper with a certificate of completion. The girls loved getting to come up, take a picture, and receive their certificate. They admired the high-quality printing and enjoyed shaking different guest and volunteer hands—especially those of Tamara, Georgia, and Hanoia, who participated in the camp all day. After getting psyched up about the race next week, the girls left smiling with extra sandwiches and their certificates in hand.
Week 3 (April 8)
Our third session started off at the same time as Jordan’s largest clean-up campaign, which targeted dozens of public sites across the country—including Sports City. Although Sports City was very crowded as the girls gathered, Coach Sweity and Coach Ibrahim organized the girls and took them on a 2K run. This run differed from previous weeks because the coaches instituted a no-stopping policy to help prepare them for the race in two weeks. This meant that the girls ran or walked the whole time without any pauses. After the run, the girls enjoyed a water break before moving on to stretches, led by Coach Sweity and Coach Ibrahim.
Next, the girls moved inside to the Sports City Squash Federation’s classroom for a presentation on healthy eating by Dr. Dania Qaryouti. Dr. Dania joined again by popular demand from last year’s camp. She focused on helping the girls identify healthy meals. She also covered the benefits of healthy eating and signs of an unhealthy diet, including eating disorders. Her comprehensive presentation on consuming healthy meals included interactive activities. Specifically, she instructed each of the girls to write down what they had eaten for their past three meals, and then she invited them to present these descriptions—which the girls clamored to do! During the presentations, she asked all the girls to identify the food groups included in each meal as well as to highlight any foods that could have been added to make the meal healthier. Before concluding, she had the girls write down examples of healthy meals, helping to reinforce her lessons.
With their appetites engaged, the girls then headed back outside for lunch (donated again by Siniora Food Industries). After enjoying lunch among the trees and sunlight in the recently cleaned Sports City, volunteer Kelly Connors led a quick running skills activity with the translation assistance of volunteer Abdelqayom Ahmad Mohammad Albasha. Kelly, who is preparing to run the Boston Marathon for the second time, gave the girls advice about how to run more efficiently, using the correct breathing techniques and running form. She then told them about the benefits of envisioning yourself finishing a race, and she had each girl draw herself crossing the finish line at the Nina Brekelmans 4K race in two weeks. Before wrapping up the day, the girls excitedly shared some of their pictures and thoughts about running the race.
Week 2 (April 1)
The second day of camp focused on building self-esteem and discussing role models. The day started by distributing camp t-shirts to everyone before jumping into a 2-kilometer run. This run differed from last week’s and mirrored parts of the race course that the girls are scheduled to run on Saturday, April 22. After stretching and a water break, the girls cooled down inside with an interactive guest lecture from Batoul Arnaout, a competitive athlete in Jordan and founder of Better Opportunities and Options for Sports Today (BOOST).
BOOST is a well-respected local organization that promotes sports in society. During the lecture, Batoul discussed how running can promote positive self-esteem and encouraged the girls to think about things they love about themselves as well as about their fellow campers. For each positive trait that the girls shared, Batoul awarded them with a smiley face sticker. Many of the girls proudly wore these stickers on their faces for the rest of the day.
In the afternoon, the girls broke into two groups and took turns eating lunch (once again donated by Siniora Food Industries) and participating in a live, interactive Skype session with Abbey D’Agostino. Abbey is an American long-distance runner, who ran with Nina at Dartmouth College and represented the United States in the 2015 World Outdoor Championships, 2016 World Indoor Championships, and 2016 Olympic Games. Beyond her amazing athletic abilities, Abbey exemplifies true sportsmanship. Her collegial attitude gained global recognition in the preliminary round of the 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics. During this race, she and another athlete from New Zealand selflessly helped each other after falling and encouraged each other to finish the race, despite their painful injuries and falling well-behind the other competitors. This action led to Abbey and the New Zealand athlete winning the 2016 Fair Play Award.
During the session, Abbey shared her incredible and inspiring story with the girls, through instant translation (thanks to one of our excellent volunteers, Sahar Shatat). She also explained the joys of running with a supportive team as well as the importance of running for love of the sport rather than for fear of losing or disappointing others. Abbey then took questions from the girls, who were excited to use video chat—particularly to exchange waves and big smiles with Abbey throughout the discussion. The Sports City Squash Federation graciously enabled these interactive, technology-based sessions by offering the girls access to a classroom equipped with reliable wireless internet and a screen.
Altogether, the girls went home happy, decked out in smiley face stickers and their new Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls t-shirts!
Week 1 (March 25)
On the first day of camp, the girls learned about Nina’s legacy and did their first run together—one loop at the Sports City complex, which is exactly 1.8 kilometers (or a little over a mile). After the run, they took a water break before getting into groups and doing sprints for about 20 minutes. The girls seemed to really enjoy the sprints because of the short distance and thrill of competing with each other!
Then they shifted into the first guest speaker presentation from Jasmine Kadoura, with assistance from her friend, Farah Shouani. The presentation focused on strength training as well as its importance for runners and involved four different exercises for the girls to try in groups of 10 to 15. These exercises included duck walks, using resistance bands, and doing ladder exercises. Jasmine concluded her presentation with a full-group exercise, where girls tried to catch a soccer ball so they could pick an exercise for the group to do (e.g., lunges, squats, push-ups, or burpees—which are a more elaborate form of a push-up). The girls seemed to really enjoy this game, as they tried to elbow each other out of the way so they could catch the ball, and then the girls waited in anticipation to see if the ball-catcher would pick a relatively hard or easy exercise.
We wrapped up the day by eating lunch (donated by Siniora Food Industries) as well as distributing introductory surveys for the girls to fill out about their views on running and healthy lifestyles. Overall, the girls seemed happy and excited to be out and about at Sport City on a nice day!