Apollo Asala

In 2011, I kicked off the EU Embassy Run as a casual run on a whim. I coerced a couple of friends to join and for the last several years, a small gaggle would gather at the French Embassy and run 13 miles visiting a dozen tightly-packed embassies along the way, ending up at the Austrian Embassy in Van Ness in NW D.C.

By 2014, I wanted to expand the run, so I contacted Rick Amernick to post the event on the DC Capital Striders homepage. Surprisingly, 40 eager runners signed up.  We were indeed bursting at the seams, but there was room for one more stowaway — Apollo who would fly alongside and blithely perch on people’s shoulders.  Apollo was a veteran runner who has enjoyed going on long-running excursions with me throughout this sociable city.  Naturally, Apollo loved to fly, but with his wings clipped, he wouldn’t go too far, normally to the nearest shoulder or to a low-hanging limb.

On May 10, 2014, the jaunt started at the Embassy of France and followed Reservoir Road through Georgetown, before climbing uphill on Wisconsin Ave.

Then we meandered our way through Embassy Row visiting Greece, Ireland, and Romania successively.

There were a lot of cultures to experience and of course fabulous food tastings not to mention the most magnificent, crisp lagers this side of heaven.

Motivated by the allure of fresh hops, we steadily climbed Mass Ave until we reached Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Finland.

My neighbor, Quentin Cummings ran along and was more than eager to imbibe on traditional European beer along the way.

Throughout the run, we proudly raised the dark blue flag with a circle of twelve yellow stars and ran at a steady pace until reaching Austria and Slovakia on International Drive. There, we celebrated and rejoiced when we reached the coveted black and white checkered flag.

“Say, the run is picking up speed with D.C. locals. Why don’t you organize an official run next year? Have people register online so people can commit ahead of time,” Rick suggested.

“That’s a great idea. Charge a nominal fee and raise money for charity. I can also get T-Shirts printed out and put our logos on the front.

Orlando Darden Jr 

To have the honor to lead 45 amazing runners, along a scenic, occasionally hilly 13-mile journey starting from France and ending at Austria. All enjoyed a diverse cultural experience! Thank you Runin Out for creating such a fun and memorable event and thanks to #RunnersWorld  for enduring the busy streets to photograph our entire run! This year’s event turned out to be an awesome adventure!  Next years promises to be EPIC!

The week after the run, I gave Rick a call.

“Hey remember that Lebanese bistro on Connecticut Ave that we passed on the way to the Hungary and Czech Embassies?”

“Yup, the Taverna. Love their hummus — great protein-infused snack to fuel up right before a long run.”

“Well, we can’t make Lebanon a part of  the EU, but we can definitely host a meetup and entice runners with healthy Mediterranean cuisine paired with a  high-energy form of  dancing?”

The following week, runners from all over the DMV came in droves to appreciate the benefits of consuming hummus with tahini and shaking hips to develop core strength.

Asala’s willowy arms and legs moved in synch, captivating and charming Lebanese guests and runners alike.  Her trademark was attractive and personable, and she was easily able to entice hardy runners to join her.

Rick raised his arms like a ballet dancer. “Have to say, this is the most exotic event, we’ve hosted so far. Great way to train for a marathon.”

I raised my arms in unison. “You guys are totally hot. Women dig dudes who can dance.”

Orlando swung his hips smoothly like Fred Astaire. “Yes, that was a blast. Enjoyed balancing the air cake on my head. That was no joke a cakewalk.”

Asala reached over to pick up a prop. “Glad you enjoyed it. Since you thought it was cake, you can balance my sword next time. And you better not drop it on your toes.”

Orlando picked up the curved sword and felt the sharp blade with his hand. “Yes, that does seem quite dangerous. Girl, you got talent.”

“Next time, I’ll bring my Shamadan Candelabra. Men who incite danger are inspired by the sight of fire.” 

I used a spare tablecloth to mimic Asala’s magic motions. “My personal favorite are Asala’s wings. They’re colorful and shiny and quite dramatic.”

Rick took a large bite from his shawarma slider. “And the food was indeed healthy and appetizing. If I ate here regularly, I wouldn’t need to run every day.”

“So happy you all enjoyed it, and I am thrilled with the audience participation. I perform every Thursday. Tell all your friends to come — it’s more challenging than yoga and more fun than running.”

Charlie came by to check on the setting of the tables. “Yes, we need to fill up the restaurant. We love to bring in new guests who will also enjoy our food.” 

I raised a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon to my lips. “How ‘bout we host a fundraiser here next time. We can just host RUNINOut events in conjunction with Asala’s performances.” 

“Well get our fattoush and tabbouleh featured prominently online, and we’ll be happy to provide you with all the hummus you want for future events and fundraisers.”

“Thank you so much, Charlie! Can I have another Almaza please?”

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough already? BTW, next week, you should visit Grace, the owner, at the original Taverna in Arlington. Maybe she’s got more work for you to do.  I know they need a new website to feature all their locations.”

In the following months, we held fundraisers for We Are Family Senior Outreach Network and the Association of Young Americans.  Together, we had saved the Raqs Baladi events from the chopping block.

The working relationship with Lebanese Taverna, local meetups and Asala El Masri would pay off splendidly for months to come.