#run4life – Day 6

My small victory on the treadmill today

Palestinian children celebrating a true victory in Oslo after winning the Norway Cup.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/20241638]

The charity that is making these victories happen is PACES.  Giving children and youth in Palestine the chance at living their age, building self-confidence and self-esteem through sports, creating positive changes in their lives and helping them imagine a different future.

You can help support this effort by sponsoring my #run4life at the Dubai Marathon.

Sponsor Rama’s #Run4Life

For more on #run4life and why I’m doing it, visit other blog posts under #run4life

#run4life – Day 5

Let the games begin!!

How it will work: I run.. you support..  the challenge is real for both of us. It isn’t always easy to give and give generously.  It is equally challenging for me to run.  With my history of cardiac arrhythmia and health challenges, running is going to be tough.  But having lived through 12 surgeries, with the first one at age 14, I am all to familiar with how tough it is to have medical issues as a child. This is why the children of the PCRF are getting my support, and hopefully yours.


the causes are:

1. PCRF  – A children’s medical charity

2. PACES – A youth sports charity

you can donate as little or as much as you want.. my target is 50,000 USD to help the PCRF build a cancer treatment center.. and to expand the reach of PACES.

For more on why I’m doing this please checkout earlier posts under #run4life.

Any questions?

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#run4life – day 4

Another vote of confidence, this one came from a childhood friend. He committed 1000 usd and volunteered to join the run in support. 1500 usd, 48,500 usd remaining!

#run4life – day 3

First sponsorship came in! 500 usd committed from a dear friend and a long time supporter of children’s charitable causes I’ve been involved in.

#run4life – day 2

Day 2

You can do it!

I kept telling myself while training.. remembered Khalil‘s rehabilitation .. if he could walk after a few days of his prosthetic fitting, I should be able to do this!


Baby steps.. increased my time and distance.  Got advice from a friend to alternate speed.. a faster 5 minute and a slower one.. he committed to training with me.  Ran into my old gym trainer on metro, he advised I train three times a week, and double the distance on weekends.  Your thoughts?


Raise 50,000 USD for the PCRF & PACES

Background on the Run4Life

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Want to help?

here’s what you can do…

  1. please stay tuned to blog updates on my training progress
  2. follow my twitter account @rchakaki and retweet with the hash-tag #run4life
  3. recommend the charities to your friends
  4. volunteer with the charities in any skill you have to offer
  5. donate generously (details will follow)

Where it all began ..

Years ago upon returning to the Middle East, I volunteered at a center for children with special needs and a center for abandoned children.  Those two experiences inspired me to to build KENZ (Arabic for Treasure), a project that would support children and youth. I wanted to focus the worlds attention on children and youth of the Arab World who seemed forgotten by the media, politics and the economic situation. I knew it would be a collaborative model, but I wasn’t clear on how I would build it; it didn’t happen, it wasn’t time.

Instead of KENZ, I find myself today representing two charities the PACES & PCRF, and supporting many causes and organizations working with children and youth in the Arab World.

My vision is to see collaboration among all individuals, charities and organizations working to enable Arab children and youth to live a prosperous and dignified life.

Tune in for more…

The Summit

10-June-07 (6am):

A few minutes later the team was near the summit, lead by Rama, who was guided by Romeo through the easiest terrain that didn’t require holding on to the umbilical cord. Rama graciously waited for Nick, knowing well that he would throw her off the summit to claim he got there first!

As they arrived at the peak, they experienced overwhelming feelings that caused them to cry uncontrollably. Many hugs were exchanged, words of support and congratulations and before they knew it, the Cigars, Vodka and Whiskey where out!

The view was indeed breath taking; standing on top of the world, above the clouds, under clear blue skies and rising sun rays, witnessing awesome natural colors of white, blue, green, orange and gray so harmoniously intertwined, feeling the cold brisk wind after having ascended 4095 meters was more than the sense could take. It was simply divine.

Second Hike – are we there yet?

The last stretch was a particularly grueling one for the team. Having woken up at 2am, after five hours of continuously interrupted sleep, with no access to breakfast food, which was being served 150 meters south in the main lodge and feeling sore from the previous climb, the team was less than fit to move on.. or rather, up! In a brief talk, Victor, our prime guide, reminded us of the distance remaining, and asked us to remain quiet as not to disturb the spirits.

Jacko was coughing, Nirmz cold, Rama scared of heights, and the rest, well, they were on something or another. Irrespective, everyone set their head-lights, no pun intended, on and started climbing.

Despite the steep steps, darkness and depleting oxygen, the climb was tolerable; things started turning ugly when the ropes appeared. The rocks were getting rounder, more slippery and stood at a steeper incline due to weathering. This called for strong rope anchored to the rocks with large metal hooks. We had to abandon our walking sticks and use our hands to hang on to the rope with dear life. The rope was for the reminder of the climb our umbilical cord.

This rope climbing went on for what felt like eternity; dark skies above, wind chill factor of 100 kilometers per hour and less oxygen than an ant’s lugs require made for conditions that would bring The Terminator to tears.

Then, a booth appears out of nowhere to signal the entrance to the summit. This was an encouraging sign for the novices among the group. Regardless everyone was happy to show their badge of honor and sign in the book of Mount Kinabalu Summit for having reached this far.

The climbing continued as the sun began to rise; something that prompted Kermi to get her second wind and call on the rest of the KK-12 to “hurry up, we want to reach the summit before sunrise”! A task that was virtually impossible given that by this time, Nirmz was hugging the rocks, and getting wrapped in the Outer space blanket, Jacko sat firmly on a rock that wouldn’t be shaken by her sever coughing bouts, Rama raised the flag of victory and declared she made it as far as her Ticker can take her, Hussein threw up everything he ate and smelled the past week and billy goat had traded in mountain climbing natural abilities for a massive asthma attack.

Amidst the growing desire among the KK-12 group members to halt the climb, Slave Driver appears to rally the troops; he tries his Gym motivation, it fails, he tries humor, that fails too, he screams a little about something or another, failure again. Finally, Slave driver says a few words about the reason the KK-12 embarked on this journey and reminds the KK-12 of the true beneficiaries of this effort and walks away.

Base Camp – 2nd Lodge

As the roof of base-camp appeared, a rush of energy enabled the remaining team members to accelerate, slightly! It might have been seeing the first signs of civilization, the hopes of a toilet as opposed to a hole in the ground, or a warm meal that wasn’t dried fruits or chocolate! Whatever the reason, the lodge seemed to be approaching rapidly.

The first sign that raised concern about the mental state of the lodge designers was the volley ball court. As if the hike hadn’t been enough of a cardiovascular workout, an architect on crack felt it could be nice to have a game where a penalty shot could have you dangling from 3000 meters, not to mention the performance enhancing levels of oxygen in the air!

The sense of humor of the lodge designer/architect was apparent through the first class, unisex, alternating temperature, mildew infested showers; made comfortable by a paper thin towel and a bar of soap the size of a Tic Tac.

However, the state of the accommodations wasn’t going to deter the KK-12 from getting some rest. We all piled on plastic chairs that were designed for size 2 models, heads on the table, we slept soundly! Well, not so much! It seems karmic debt caught up with us, and the disturbances we caused our Japanese fellow climbers was returned and then some.

The Scottish, well-endowed, marathon talker sat behind us telling her table mates what appeared to be the tale of time. All we heard was “yeah but, no but, yeah but, no but” at 100 miles per hour and 250 decibels! Jacko was most offended by the diarrhea of words coming out of the woman’s mouth as she felt the lady gave Scots a bad reputation. At one point, Jacko was so distraught by the disturbance, she lifted a fork and proceeded towards the lady’s table with the intent to extract her vocal cords. Luckily, the water retention in her ankles kept her from reaching her target.

Furthermore, to take the well-endowed Scottish female down, we needed the forces of all the KK-12 members. Unfortunately, Ali had been paralyzed by a tooth cavity, MouRnir and Mahmoud by the amount of food they consumed, Nirmala by the lack of modern amenities, while Iva and Rana were incapacitated by the absence of a clean mirror to refresh their makeup post shower and the rest couldn’t be bothered!

Despite the strange accommodations and the annoying lodge mates, the deck offered a stunning view of the sunset. One by one, the team stood admiring the cloud formations, the yellow, orange and purple hues of the setting sun and the majestic view s of the rain forest below.

To avoid ruining the “romantic admiration of nature“ moment, none of us shared our deep seated fear of what we had gotten ourselves into and only silently wondered how we might make it back down! It did not need to be said; the fact that most of the team proceeded to drink shots of vodka and Whiskey excessively, gave it away!

When Nick mentioned that the sleeping accommodations were a couple of steps away and without heat, everyone thought he was kidding; forgetting that an ex-royal marine is stripped of a real sense of humor and is solely capable of bullying and sarcasm. We attempted to revolt, however, due to the lack of oxygen, the fatigue and low IQ, Nick diverted our attention using a photo opportunity with our newly acquired head flash lights. We quietly proceeded to climb and after 100 meters found ourselves facing the cabin, under a bright sky dotted with beautiful stars and galaxies.

We quickly off-loaded their bags in the 4×2 meter room with 8 bunk beds, and returned outside to marvel at stars we hadn’t seen in years. While some members had vague childhood memories of starry sky’s, most have lived in light polluted cities deprived of the site of starts for the majority of their lives. We were quiet for the first time since we began our trip; left speechless by the beauty of the velvet black, diamond studded blanket that draped overhead.

This state was apparently too much for the slave driver. Worried that he might have to return alone, he broke the silence by mooning the group!

  • Evening stars
  • Mooned by Nick

Nick names

  • Mounier – Billy Goat and MouRnier a misspelling on his ticket that was carried through to all his official travel documents
  • Mahmoud – Moody
  • Nick – Slave driver/boss/Sputnik
  • Iva – Diva
  • Souheil – Beaver aka Castor
  • Rana – Kermi/Superstar
  • Nirmala – Nirmz
  • Dany – Rambo
  • Rama – There was debate about my name. The initial suggestion “Fart Machine” was suggested by Billy Goat because of my keen sense of smell and my ability to smell gas miles away. The team deliberated, and found terms such as Tant Adele, Ticker and finally Goddess far more appropriate.
  • Jackie – Wako Jacko aka

I was selected one of eight to sleep in the 4×2 room. Having never experienced a slumber party in my life, this was a welcome first. In spite of the Motel 4 accommodations, I was determined to have a slumber party before the age of 40.

It wasn’t long before the band of 8 decided which bed each would claim. The problem was the walking space between the beds could only fit two people at a time. Hence, the team mounted the beds while two at a time occupied the walking gap to extract their sleeping bags and toiletries from backpacks.

Midnight chats

  • Rana wanted sauce, or was that socks? Dany wasn’t sure, cause he was so scared of bugs, he wrapped his sleeping bag tightly around his head.
  • Jackie coughed a lung & had bladder control issues.. truth was, she loved the bathrooms and had to go back time and time again to savor the sights and smells.
  • Mounier couldn’t sleep – he tried to play “house” with Tant Adele; when that failed, he wondered the hall talking to random strangers and moaned the rest of the evening because Mahmoud slept so deeply
  • Rama froze & contemplated slipping into a lower bunk for warmth.. she was also scared of falling over because the bunks had no rails.
  • Being the largest one of the team, Nirmz guarded the group in her door side bunker
  • Diva and Moody slept through it all!

We got told off for being too noisy for the dorm – curfew was at 9.

The two adults, Nick & Souheil slept in the other room with Ali & Hussein; the excuse was, the boys wouldn’t share a room with the girls. Rumor has it, there was a mid-night bag carrying strategy session.

Kinabalu National Park – 1st hike


Armed with enough supplies for a month on the mountain the team journeyed on what most thought would be a leisurely, perhaps briefly challenging stroll. Backpacks included:
sufficient bug repellent to endanger all insects in Kinabalu National park,
two tons of dried fruits and nuts and another ton of chocolate
12 emergency blankets designed for outer-space trips,
a supply of wool socks that can warm all north pole inhabitants, including penguins,
12 first aid kits; one designed to reassemble a human who’s taken a fall off the Mount Kinabalu summit,
video and camera film sufficient for 365 days of TV-airtime on 7 channels.

The KK-12 was dressed head to toe in the Summer, Fall and Winter Peak Performance Great Outdoors 2007 Collection. They were indeed the best looking team to ascend Mount Kinabalu. That was proven time and time again when random fellow climbers would slip as a result of paying little attention to the path and a lot to the magnificent fashion statement the team was making.

Given the significance of the load, the health state of some, and the social status of others, all females in the team decided shamelessly to hire porters to carry their bags.

The males felt confident that their mighty backs and shoulders can bear the load. The male team consisted of one Royal Marine, and six 20 something and thirty something Arab Males. Did anyone mention EGO?

The first to collapse under the weight of 100kg was Souheil. It came as no surprise since he managed to smoke 10 pipes before ascending and was seen hiding the beer keg under his shirt the evening prior. Luckily, his roommate came to his rescue. According to Souheil, the first aid kit was the load that did him in!

As the group stopped to refill water and answer nature calls in first class restrooms made of tin and equipped with the same buckets found at the airport VIP lounge, the “OCD” behavior and Creature comfort life-style inclinations of the ladies began to surface. Nirmz had to sanitize water with drops that rendered the water undrinkable due to high acidity, Rama used 60 wet-wipes per stop, while Iva and Rana kept up their lip-gloss and mascara. Jackie went through 6 inhalers and 100 anti-dehydration pills (which will later cause her to question who that 300 pounds, moon-faced person wearing her clothes is in the pictures!)

The climb was tough. what seemed like a never ending stream of uneven stairs, rough terrain and winding path of vertical slippery rocks kept appearing before the team’s eyes and under their feet.

As the team struggled up particularly rough patches, Billy Goat, would suddenly, with great energy and enthusiasm overtake members of the KK-12 and begin to race Rambo up the path. This was accompanied by chanting “To to to ruru… kinabalu”, a tune introduced by the youngest member of the group who had recently been weaned off Sesame Street. This act of disobedience would prompt Royal Marines Commander turned Slave Driver to use profanities to shame the team back into proper group formation. The phrase “For F#&%’s sake, stay together!” was repeated at least twice per meter climb. This passive aggressive behavior was obviously caused by Sputnick’s inability to command a team of Royal Marines and a desire to command any team who would listen!

Along the way, the team members kept each other entertained with off-beat songs, random jokes and plenty of sarcasm; on occasion, the team would break out in laughter and call out at each other using sounds that would assault any ear. This was evident as the KK-12 passed groups of elderly Japanese practicing meditation and adhering to Fung Shew order; the KK-12’s obscene voices were so severe, it caused one Japanese national to slip, suffer serious neck damage and be forced to abandon the climb. He was the lucky one among his group; the rest endured continuous sound assault and abusive language in many tongues.

The challenging climb did not stand in the team’s way of admiring nature; something Kermi had to be broken into gently since her only encounter with nature was at Chiva Som Spa in Thailand. Purple, black, orange, pink and beautiful red mushrooms were photographed extensively by Souheil and all others with Cameras. Rambo and Billy Goat wanted to know the Mushroom’s “magical” qualities.. for scientific reference of course. Occasionally the group came across a pitcher plant and gleamed with excitement; by the third kilometer, the KK-12 were so tiered that even a field of pitcher plants was not enough to veer anyone off track.

Towards the end of the first leg, the youngest male members of the team, Billy Goat and Rambo followed closely by Kermi disappeared from vision; the rest, full of envy trailed behind hoping to reach base camp before sunset.