In 2001, May El-Khalil suffered a near-fatal accident while on her routine run that put her in a coma and left her unable to walk. After two years of struggling with her injuries, El-Khalil began walking again. Out of her own struggle, she was inspired to start a movement that would create a sense of community, inspiring others to overcome the adversities in their lives. This is when she founded the Beirut Marathon Association.
The first Beirut Marathon was held in 2003, attracting 6,000 participants, and soon becoming a globally acclaimed event. In 2009, the marathon received accreditation from the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), and in 2016 attracted over 47,000 participants from 104 countries. It has also received recognition from prestigious organizations across the globe, being awarded the Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive (AIPS) Power of Sports Award 2010, the Laureus “Sports for Good” Award 2010, and May El-Khalil was invited to speak about the Beirut Marathon project at the world-renowned TED Global Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2013.
Today, the Beirut Marathon Association organizes multiple running events alongside the Beirut Marathon, including a ladies-only race designed to empower women through running, and youth races to encourage a healthy lifestyle in the next generation.