Peace Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Changing the World Through Sport With Mo’ath Alkhawaldeh

As a little boy growing up in Jordan, Mo’ath Alkhawaldeh aka “Mo” was a bit of a troublemaker. He fought constantly with both his classmates and teachers and, by consequence, was moved from class to class and then from school to school to no avail.

Then something changed.

One day Mo was at a supermarket buying himself some cigarettes when he spotted a brochure for a local 21 kilometer road race. Mo was intrigued, and so, never having run a mile in his life, he laced up his “hang out at the mall” shoes, toed the line, and was a changed man one hour and 50 minutes later.

Running’s competitiveness combined with its camaraderie served as the best outlet for Mo’s anger and anxiety, and the effects were immediate. Mo’s grades improved, he learned to get along with his peers, and his running took off – enough to land him a full athletic scholarship at the New York Institute of Technology.

Having witnessed it firsthand, Mo believes in sport’s potential to change individual behavior to ultimately influence greater conflict.

He’s an ambassador of the Beirut Marathon Association and has worked with the renowned nonprofit organization Generations for Peace for over three years, implementing youth programs in the war-ridden communities of 22 African and Middle Eastern Countries.

Mo is also an accomplished runner. Currently ranked as one of the top two marathoners in Jordan, he is training to compete at the 2020 Games in Tokyo and wishes to inspire Jordan’s youth to pursue their own athletic potential.

Listen in as Mo shares his mission to change the world through sport.

Mo 1

Here are some of the topics we’ll discuss today:

  • How running has changed Mo’s life
  • Generations for Peace and its mission
  • Mo’s day-to-day working for Generations for Peace
  • How Mo’s youth programs have already taken effect
  • What it means to be an ambassador for the Beirut Marathon Association
  • Mo’s running career and what’s next
  • Questions Mo is asked:

    4:24 What was it like growing up in Jordan and how did you first get into running?

    9:26 How did you feel when you first started running?

    11:30 Was it hard for you to leave Jordan?

    13:34 What were your post-collegiate intentions entering college?

    15:41 How do you feel building peace through sport is effective?

    16:46 What is Generations for Peace?

    17:57 What did your daily activities entails as you worked with these communities?

    18:50 What was the most difficult part of your job?

    21:02 Does your own running career inspire the kids to go after one themselves?

    23:07 What changes have you seen in the communities in which you’ve worked?

    24:49 Have these kids seen improvement in their academics, too?

    27:31 What is the selection process for these programs?

    29:21 What activities make up these programs?

    30:26 Are parents and families cooperative with these programs?

    31:29 How did you collect feedback from parents?

    33:18 was it difficult to communicate with and supervises your delegates in other communities?

    34:55 What are your current activities with Generations for Peace and other peacebuilding?

    38:18 What will you be doing in New York as an ambassador for the Beirut Marathon?

    40:20 Is your schedule now more conducive to training as an elite runner and are you more confident in the leaps you want to make in your running career?

    42:00 Tell us about speaking before the Vancouver Marathon and the conference for the France run.

    46:58 The Final Kick Round

    Quotes by Mo:

    “So imagine from Amman to New York City….it was definitely difficult. I remember when I was flying in the plane 12 hours from Amman to New York imagining I was flying that plane and just having two wings: one of the wings of the plane being a student and the other wing being an athlete. I have to keep the two wings up as much as I can so I can land better.”

    “Generations for Peace is a leading global nonprofit peace-building organization founded by Prince Feisal Al Hussein in 2007. It’s dedicated to sustainable conflict transformation at the grassroots communities by promoting youth leadership, community empowerment, active tolerance, and responsible citizenship.”

    “We work to empower the delegates or the volunteers we work with on the ground and help them to implement the programs they’re leading….and support them to be the change-makers….and create a better future in their own communities.”

    “I was between these options: either I quit running and focus more on my peacebuilding programs or I quit my peacebuilding programs and focus on my running. So it was a bit hard for me to decide between those things, but I felt like both of them are connected and I reached to the point that….changing the lives of children and youth has to come first, but my dream of becoming an Olympian is tied to that objective.”

    “Taking all my experience I had in my 5 years of living in New York City, it was like a dream to go back to bring sport culture to [Jordan], and that’s what brought me home back in 2013. So I’m still on that message – I’m still spending a couple of years just to see other different cultures in sport because obviously New York City has a lot of cultures. I need to be out here to learn from other people so I will be able to spread the message back in the Middle East region.”

    Take a Listen on Your Next Run

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    Mentioned in this podcast:

    Mo’s website
    Generations for Peace
    France Run
    The Beirut Marathon
    Book: Once a Runner
    Book: Running with the Buffaloes
    Book: Run Fast, Eat Slow
    Follow Mo on Twitter

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