They called us the “Unlimited Twins”; we are 26 year old twins with dynamic personalities. Our ultimate goal is to be the very first Twins Jordanian (Arabic) women to climb Mount Everest. Mount Everest is in the Himalayan Mountains and at 29,035 feet (8850m) the highest mountain in the world. They have the drive to succeed.
We already have claimed many victories on our way ‘to the top’. We both have BA degrees in Information Technology. At age 21 we were the first Jordanian female athletes ever to compete as marathon runners. At the beginning of our competitive years starting with 400 and 800 meter events in 1997 and progressing to the marathon runs of 42 and 50 km’s and then on to 168 and 244 km’s. Our mother Dr. Wesam gave us a lot of encouragement as well as our coaches. Coach Al Masri encouraged us and taught us the principles of short distance running. Then in 1999 we met Coach Siham Neamat and she pushed us to greater heights of marathon running. Our first marathon race was the Dead Sea half marathon Lama came in third and Dima came in fourth. This event was the key to our future as marathon runners and increased our desires for our ‘ultimate goal- Everest’. From 1999 to 2006 we have finished in the top 3 places 18 times of 23 races. Dima set a new record time at the Dead Sea Ultramarathon in the 50 km race in 2000. We are proficient and with the maturation of our plan we will be in a good position to achieve our goal of climbing to the summit and placing the Jordanian flag on top of Mount Everest.
Future plans: In February 2007 we plan to go to an Alaskan training camp where we will learn the basics in cold weather training such as; proper gear selection, biking, running, skiing and snowshoeing. We will apply their skills on the world famous Iditarod trail in a 100 mile (168km) race. After the Alaska training we will proceed to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa 19,340 feet (5,895 m), next is another training camp this time in Nepal to further sharpen our skills in preparation for Everest. We will be other suggested mountains to climb and a training camp in Germany all prior to the assault on Everest.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Monday, November 06, 2006
1/26/2003 4:10:00 AM
A career that began in short distance running rapidly developed into marathon proportions.
by : Lubna Khader, Star Writer
JORDAN (Star) - A career that began in short distance running rapidly developed into marathon proportions. Twins Lama and Dima Hattab, 21, have become the first Jordanian female athletes ever to compete as marathon runners. The Star sat down with the pair to discuss their experiences and expectations, particularly for the upcoming Desert Cup.The pair began early, running around the yard and back and forth to school. With their mother's support and encouragement, the girls began to compete in school championships, and they began to win."We started in 1997," said Dima, "training in Petra Stadium for short distances like the 400 and 800 meter. Coach Ahmed Al Masri saw us and encouraged us as well. He taught us the principles of short distance running, joining us as coach at the Amman club."They continued short distance running until 1999 when they fell under the tutelage of coach Siham Neamat. It was she that pushed the pair toward marathon distances. "It was coach Neamat that suggested we participate in half a marathon as a beginning, so we took part in the Dead Sea Half Marathon," explained Dima.Lama won third place and Dima fourth. "It was a great result as first time participants. Our participation in the marathon qualified us for nomination to the Jordanian team," said Lama. The two formidable athletes explained they had to compete with the men because, up until their arrival, there were no Jordanian females participating in half marathons. They ran a 1 hour:38 minute half marathon. The federation required only a 1:41 to qualify. With that they were a part of the team. "We were able to take our place on the Jordanian team participating in the Pan-Arab Games taking place in Amman in 1999," said Lama.The 1999 Pan-Arab Games included marathon participants from Morocco, Algeria, Iraq, Syria, and Tunisia with a total of 17 participants. The competition was tough, but Lama won seventh place. That led to training for the two in Iraq with the Jordanian team. The pair explained it was difficult to move from short distance runs to marathons. "There is a big difference between the two," explained Lama. "In short distance you only need five minutes to warm-up for a race. In long you need at least half an hour. The whole discipline is different. The amount of training time is near double. Marathons require you to run with a strategy."In 2000 the pair participated in the Dead to Red Marathon, designed to promote and encourage marathon running in the Kingdom. Participants were from Jordan and abroad. The girls put together a team of exclusively Jordanian runners, three girls and five boys. They went out to win the race for Jordan and came home with first place.Following Red to Dead they were trained by a Chinese coach, Dai Dehol, for three months. "He provided us tremendous support right when we needed it," said Lama.This led up to 2000's Dead Sea Marathon. Dima participated as part of the "Ultra" marathon, so named for any run over 50 Km. Lama participated as a marathoner, running 42 Km. They both took home first place. Dima was the only Arab participant in her race. Later that same year they made the decision to participate in the grueling Desert Cup through Wadi Rum, a 168 Km race. "There were more than 250 participants from 13 countries. We showed up and found we were not only youngest women participating but the only Arabs participants in the competition," said Dima. They came in ninth. "It was a great challenge for us. This was the first time we participated in such a long distance as this," she continued.They followed that challenge with Morocco's Marathon Des Sables in 2001. The Marathon Des Sables is 242 km, divided into six stages over seven days. It includes more than 700 hundred participants from all over the world. The first day is 25 Km, then 34 Km, 38 Km. The fourth and fifth day stretched it to a tremendous 82 Km. The sixth dropped down to a 'marathon' length of less than 50km, while the seventh day pushed them back into 'Ultra' territory. Dima came in 36th, Lama 37th out of 150 female participants.The two returned to Jordan's own Desert Cup in 2001. This time participants pushed 236 with 37 female participants. Lama and Dima were running fourth into the last stage, when they got lost. The Desert Cup's environ is tremendously confusing and challenging, but with the aid of a mobile phone the two got back on track and still managed to finish. They crossed the line, hand-in-hand, for a tie at ninth.In Cup team participation Lama, along with teammates Salameh Al Aqrea and Mohammed Al Sweti, won third place amongst 15 teams. Lama and Dima both expressed a common concern of athletes in the Kingdom: Funding. Like so many Jordanian athletes, their sport needs sponsors so these tremendous athletes can compete in local and international events. "Running a marathon is expensive," explained Lama and Dima. "Taking part in the Desert Cup for a single participant costs $1500. Participation in marathons outside the Kingdom cost at least $3000. As you can imagine, without sponsorship it's difficult to participate."The two explained that the Federation had not organized any female marathons since the conclusion of Pan Arab Games in 1999. But the twins have another concern. "The Federation was pushing us to participate in races they chose for us, all of them short distance runs. We were forced to withdraw from the Jordanian team. As we explained there is a big difference between preparing for short distance and long distance runs. We couldn't afford to stay. It would have reduced our ability," explained the pair, both hoping recent changes in the Federation might bring needed change. Lama and Dima did want to make clear their heartfelt thanks for all of the media support and attention they have received. That focus and the companies that have sponsored their participation are the only way the two-some could continue. Lama and Dima are not resting on their laurels. They'll be in Berlin the last week of September to participate in the Berlin Marathon. In October, they'll take another run at the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon, before concluding the year with the tremendous Desert Cup in November. No mobiles will be allowed this year. We wish them the best of luck!
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Identical but Unique The Hattab Twins Talk about Marathons, “Survivor,” and Sisterhood.
Running might have just started out as a hobby for the 23-year-old Hattab twins, Lama and Dima, but it has proven to be much more than that. “Our coach in school always encouraged us to participate in marathons. She saw in us a talent to run, and she predicted that we had it in us to win in major running races,” Lama said. They first experienced the thrill of victory when they took 3rd and 4th place in the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon back in the year 1999, but at the time it was just a sport they wanted to experiment with. Running for a Cause Their love for running went a step further later that year, when they met Dr. Holger Finkernagel while at the camp for the Desert Cup Marathon. Finkernagel heads the World Humanitarian Marathon and Ultramarathon Foundation, a group that organizes marathons around Africa and the Middle East in support of philanthropic causes. “We had just finished taking part in the 21km race,” said Lama. “We started talking with Dr Holger and we got along instantly. We were interested in what he had to say, and he liked our ambition. We got around to talking about races, and it was then that we started planning the mission and vision statements behind the Jabal Ishrin marathon.” So, at age 19, Lama and Dima took on the role of head organizers for the Jabal Ishrin, a new marathon to be held in the gorgeous desert of Wadi Rum. The first Jabal Ishrin, run on a trial basis in 2002 and co-sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, was a success, and the marathon has continued in subsequent years. To fund this event the twins managed to get sponsorships from Red Bull, WHMF, Azeeza, and Adidas. The marathon, in turn, has raised money for the benefit of many worthy causes in Jordan, including the Al Raja School for the Deaf and the Society for the Care of Neurological Patients. Marathon participants have also donated wheelchairs, walkers, and other necessary equipment to those organizations. Now the girls are working on strengthening the media campaign for their marathon, and are striving for official accreditation from the Jordanian Government. “Getting official accreditation will help us get more sponsorships for the event,” said Lama “I want to see the name of the Jabal Ishrin Marathon listed in the Encyclopedia of Best Marathons, for I truly believe that our Marathon is unique.” Nothing is Flawless The 2003 marathon was a great success, the twins said, but the latest race, held last month, was plagued by last-minute problems. The twins had planned a new route for this year that would allow runners to enjoy more of the magical view of the desert. But on the day of the event, they said, the signs marking the route were vandalized. “The road signs were smashed to pieces. Some signs were thrown haphazardly on the track. The water stations were out of reach due to the confusion, and runners had to run great distances without a water supply,” Dima said. “Many of our runners got lost on the way,” Lama added. “We stayed up all night just to make sure that the marathon was a success. It took us four months to prepare for it. On the day of the event, November 18th 2004, we thought everything was planned, but it turned out that everything was a mess.” “I was upset over what happened,” Dima said. “Unlike Lama, I am not prepared to beat myself up over it. We did our best. We worked so many sleepless nights. We had a good cause and most of the people still managed to have fun.” Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the complications the marathon saw this year have made the girls fear losing credibility. “Not everyone takes complications of this kind lightly,” muttered Lama, but Dima, perpetually cheery, chimed in: “The bright side of it all was that some people ran the half marathon without knowing they had it in them. They thought that they were running a shorter distance, but the misleading directions forced them to discover new capabilities they didn’t even know they had.” Inseparable From Their Sport, and From Each Other Lama and Dima are the oldest of five siblings. They said that their father, a dentist and their mother, a general practitioner, have always worried about them. Their mother pleaded with them time and time again not to be involved in such strenuous activities, but the girls’ love for sports made it hard for them to abide by their parents wishes. “We are sometimes forced to tell our mother about the sports we are involved in after we are involved in them,” Dima said. “That way we don’t have to put up with all her worrying.” The girls had always been in the same class at school. Lama says Dima picks out her clothes, which are often identical to her own. They had even always worn the same hairstyle. “When I put blonde streaks in my hair, I told my sister to do the same,” Dima said. “She didn’t want to at first, but she did.” Their dedication to the marathon, and their bond with one another as sisters led them to study by correspondence. “We both hold degrees in IT, which we got together,” said Lama. “Distance learning was the only way to go, if we were to organize a major event like this one every year.” Today the girls work together in the corporate world. At home they are inseparable, and while organizing the marathon’s proceedings they work side by side with a team of volunteers to ensure that the event is a success. In the future they said, they hope to provide more support for the physically challenged, and to do something to benefit the diabetic community in Jordan. Separated by a TV Show “We both wanted to be on ‘Survivor,’” Dima said. “Lama was more into it than me, and she was chosen to go to Lebanon for the final casting. My parents were not very keen on only sending one of us out, but eventually they gave in, and Lama went, while I stayed here in Amman.” The twins had always striven for identical goals in life, and had never had to live apart. When Lebanon’s LBC broadcasting chose only Lama to be on the show, the idea of separation in itself was a big challenge for them. “Being on the show was an interesting experience,” Lama said. “We were only allowed to have with us one pair of trousers, one pair of shorts, two pairs of underwear, a pair of sneakers, and a pair of hiking boots. We spent the first few nights on the deserted island without sleep, as we were under the threat of being attacked by monkeys. I remember going seven days without food, as we only lived on the fruits available to us from the land.” Lama eventually had to leave the show because she gets an injury on one of the game. When she returned to Amman, she had lost 7 kilos, Dima said. “When I first came back I kept eating chocolates as if they were going to leave the planet” said Lama. “When she was not eating chocolates she was crying about the way in which she had left the show,” Dima added. “If I had left the show because I was defeated I could have lived with that,” Lama said, “but what was hard for me to bear was that I was forced to leave the program this way. I felt I was representing Jordan, and by leaving the show so abruptly, I felt that I had let my country down.” Lama till this day speaks bitterly about the program, and claims that she is happy that her sister didn’t have to go through the experience: “Now that I look back on it, the experience isn’t great, but it is a good representation of life. We as people are like the contestants on Survivor. We do whatever it takes to survive. In life the strongest survives, and the strongest is not necessarily the most ethical. I did many things for my team: I found the fire, and I found the food and water, but because I didn’t play the role of the hero I was out of the game. I am better for my team than many people who are still in the game, but in life the law of the jungle prevails, and it is the law of the jungle that made me leave the program the way I did.” Being so emotionally attached, the girls naturally felt a great void existed in their lives while being apart. “When Lama was gone I spoke about her so much at work that people would accidentally call me Lama,” said. She said that she had to keep herself busy just so that she didn’t have to think so much about Lama when she was gone. Lama had similar feelings. She said that when she was on the island, she spoke about her sister so much that people called her Dima. Together to Complete Each Other Outside the running scene and the television studio, the twins are quick to point out that there are differences in their personalities. Dima claims that her sister is sometimes harsh with people. Lama on the other hand, said that Dima is too laid back, and that she is not prepared to bother herself with details. “Dima irritates me when we are organizing a marathon. I would be worrying about the smallest details, and she would be watching TV as if she has no care in the world,” she said Dima said, “I do care about details, but I do let things go, and I do allow myself to have a break every once in a while.” Though the twins argue at times, they also make up instantly. “We never get upset at the same time,” said Dima. “One of us is upset, and the other remains calm.” “That way,” Lama added, “the calm one helps the other see things for what they are.” Both girls hold strong bonds with their family, but Lama says that she puts the family first. ”Whenever there is a problem in a family they usually ask me to solve it,” she said. “I do care about the family,” Dima said, “but I am always sure that in one way or another they will work things out.” Despite, or perhaps because of, their different priorities, the twins say they feel they complete each other. People see them as identical in appearance, but it is the bonds they share—as sisters, as athletes, and as philanthropists – that make them unique.
Paulo Coelho said in his book The Alchemist, “When you want some thing, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”.
I believe this with all my heart. However, the act of living one’s own destiny includes a series of stages that are far beyond our understanding, whose objective is always to take us back to the path of our Personal Legend-or to make us learn the lessons necessary to fulfill our own destiny. I think I can better illustrate what I am saying by relating an episode in my life.
When we start running we never thought we will reach point where we are now, we used watching running programs on TV and dreaming to do such a thing. We never stop dreaming of that. I clearly can remember when we decided to run on the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon 50km and 42km, and we start our training to achieve it, I even can remember all the moment during my training, my mother how she supported us, my coach how he was caring about us, I can remember how many times we cried during our training from the pain. Our coach used to say always “Training for any race should be harder than the race, no matter how big the race is.”
All our friends said “YOU ARE CRAZY”!!! In the race day we show every body how crazy we are and we won the race….
From there we start looking for bigger races, and the next year we run the Desert Cup race 168km non-stop we were 19 years old, and the only Arabic ladies… that was so hard for us, but we did it and we reached the finish line together….The 244km Marathon Des Sable was our next step, we were the first from the Middle East running the race holding the Jordanian flag with us and we learned a lot from that race.
We run so many other races after that in Germany, Italy and France….
Now we want to show all the people in this world the power of ladies…We decide to start our training To Be The First Twins Ever Climbing Mount Everest And The First Arabic Ladies Reach The Summit And Get The Jordanian Flag To The Heights Point On The Earth.
It won’t be easy… but this is what we want to do and we believe that all the universe conspires in helping us to achieve it.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
The Running Hope
Twins tend to be identical in more than just looks: there are similar habits, speech, attire, and even moods. Dima and Lama Hattab are twin sisters who are identical in passions as well. Wajih Halawa jogged up a sweat with the champion runners to talk about their ambitious charity project, Children's Hope Middle East.
Not many athletes begin their careers towards the end of their high school years. In fact, some actually retire by the time they are in university. Not so with the Hattab twins, who started running in 1998 as they entered their Tawjihi year, a very unusual commencement. Dima and Lama originally began with short distance races, enduring teases from their coach that they would soon be running marathons.
After a lot of encouragement and motivation, the two sisters entered the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon in 1999. With their first half-marathon participation, Lama and Dima placed third and fourth respectively. This success encouraged them to go further, training to run marathons secretly with their coach, who was only allowed to train short distance runners. While Jordanian instructors and trainers remained skeptical of their "excessive enthusiasm", Lama and Dima shot back in 2000. In the "Dead Sea Ultra Marathon", Lama won the marathon while Dima took it a step further, winning the ultra-marathon.
Things were getting serious, and the bug had bitten them hard. Dima and Lama wanted to run longer and harder, and they landed a sponsorship by the Royal Hashemite Court to run the 168 km Desert Cup as its youngest contestants in 2000. "It was absolute misery," recalls Dima. "We ran over a hundred kilometers on sand, and then we continued across mountains, all with fifteen kilograms each in our backpacks and facing winds of up to 80 kilometers per hour!"
The two women completed the race – from the depths of Wadi Rum to the ancient Nabatean city of Petra – in a total of 55 hours, placing ninth and tenth among participating females. By 2002, they would reduce this total to just 37 hours, finishing in second place. More importantly, though, Dima and Lama had met Dr. Holger Finkernagel while making camp during their first Desert Cup. Dr. Finkernagel had been organizing a marathon at Wadi Rum's Jabal Ishrin, and the young runners were eager to help.
Jabal Ishrin (Peak 20) would transform the impetus behind Dima and Lama Hattab's passion for running. With the high costs of major international competitions, the Jabal Ishrin Marathon was conceived as an affordable race for those who enjoyed recreational running, with proceeds going towards selected charities. The commencement was in 2001 with just 40 people participating, and has now grown to an annual event featuring several hundred marathon enthusiasts running across Wadi Rum with the support of the World Humanitarian Marathon and Ultramarathon Foundation (WHMF).
Dima and Lama donated the money from the first race to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and in 2002 the proceeds were used to buy a bus for the Princess Basma Center for the Handicapped in Shouneh, in addition to wheelchairs and walkers which were distributed to various handicapped centers in the Kingdom. Their fundraising has also helped support diabetes patients as well as Al-Rajaa School for the hearing-impaired in Zarka, where proceeds have been used to fund the purchase of hearing aids and regular checkups for afflicted children.
The twins would soon learn about things like serendipity and connecting the dots between events. "So many times, we find ourselves thinking or talking about things, and then seeing them happening later on," says Lama.
When a Moroccan friend told them about the Marathon des Sables, organized by Atlantique Organisation Internationale (AOI), the same group behind the Desert Cup, Dima and Lama were instantly excited. The Marathon des Sables is a unique race that has been held annually for twenty years now, a six-day endurance test of almost 250 km across the South Moroccan Sahara that requires all participants to be entirely self-sufficient with their own supplies on their backs. In April 2001, the twins acted upon their curiosity and participated in the grueling challenge. The first Jordanian participation in the Marathon des Sables ended with respectable positions of 36th and 37th out of more than 700 other runners.
"It was a completely different experience," said Lama with awe. "After spending nine days with 700 people, you become a bit attached and you look out for each other. You would see people giving hugs and consoling other runners who were dropping out of the race. It was just amazing."
The race took on an entirely different dimension in 2004. Dima and Lama, now established humanitarian runners, were watching Kalam el-Nas ("The Talk of the People" in Arabic) on LBC television, and they were moved to tears by the stories of children fighting cancer. From this event, the idea for Children's Hope was born. "We decided to create Children's Hope in order to help all children facing all kinds of challenges," explains Dima.
From this came Lama and Dima's idea to participate again in the Marathon des Sables, this time raising one dollar for every meter they run to reach a total of $250,000 in contributions to be donated for cancer research and helping children with cancer. This ambitious project goes hand-in-hand with the sisters’ Jabal Ishrin race, their studies, and now their full-time jobs, in addition to Lama's participation in reality TV show "Survivor" in 2004.
While promoting the Jabal Ishrin marathon in Beirut last year, Dima and Lama met another runner, Ali "Alain" Wehbi, who had lost his mother to cancer. He was immediately encouraged by their efforts and joined Children's Hope as the organization's lead contact in Lebanon. With the political turmoil that engulfed Lebanon this year, the three decided to postpone their run in the Marathon des Sables until 2006, taking advantage of the extra time to plan their publicity strategy.
The challenge for Children's Hope now is twofold: to solicit enough sponsors that will support Dima, Lama, and Ali's participation in the Marathon des Sables, and then gather donations and run the exhausting race. The audacity of their ambition was equally matched by skepticism and criticism. Lama, the more vocal proponent of the twins, explains their frustration: "Some people are always sarcastic and negative. They ask us what we're getting as a benefit from all this work. Others have even accused us of taking the money that we raise in races for our own pockets! I mean, why shouldn't we benefit others if we have what we need in life?"
Dima, although generally more reserved, is just as emotional about this issue. "Many people and companies promised to help but then did nothing," she says with some disappointment. "It makes us want to stop doing it sometimes."
With the support of their parents, the sisters have assembled a team of dedicated volunteers to accomplish the goal of running the Marathon des Sables and raising $250,000 for the fight against cancer. Using their web site (http://www.childrenshope-me.org/) they are planning a series of awareness campaigns for students and other interested groups, in addition to a plethora of media interviews with leading Arabic-language newspapers and magazines to educate the public about why they need sponsorship and donations, especially because many local businesses are not taking the effort seriously at all. The leaders of Children’s Hope Middle East emphasize that their financial operations will be audited in order to ensure the veracity of their effort in the eyes of the public.
On the other hand, working with many Jordanian sponsors has been like pulling teeth for Lama and Dima, in contrast with several sponsors from Lebanon. "The problem is that most companies wait until the last minute to give us an answer," says Lama. One particularly known sponsor promised to support the Hattabs' Jabal Ishrin race with JD500, but never paid up in spite of being heavily promoted. Dima adds, "If they are not interested, they should just say so. Imagine how big and empty the desert is. It's an ideal vehicle for any sponsor because there is nothing to clutter the sponsor's message and logo, especially with all the media attention involved."
Given the volume of work the two runners are pouring into their cause, they have not saved a penny from their salaries. Their free time is dedicated to promoting their work, signing up runners for the Jabal Ishrin Marathon, soliciting sponsors, and conducting actual training if any time is left. Once the Jabal Ishrin event is over, all their energies will be focused on the Marathon des Sables next April.
Underneath it all, the Hattab twins have a clear goal in mind. “Running for this cause promotes a healthy lifestyle and shows us how some things are simply taken for granted,” says Dima. Lama is no less vigorous about the matter: “We believe that people should take advantage of what God has given them. These kids and their families are suffering and we need to do something for them.”