I have been wanting to run the Wadi Bih relay challenge for years now but never had a chance to – either cannot get a team together, or too afraid of doing damage the week before the RAK half marathon (it always falls the week before the half marathon).
But this year a friend messaged me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to join her team – hell yes I did! I then asked one other friend as we were still one person short, and BOOM! A team of 5 – 3 girls, 2 guys.
We headed up to Dibba on Friday afternoon in 2 cars – the girls car and the boys car. Both cars were stocked with our gear, food, waters etc., all split between the cars so we didn’t necessarily have our own stuff in the car we were travelling in.
It’s approximately a 2 hour or so drive, and then you have to possibly add in long queues at the border check point, so you’re maybe looking at around a 2.5 / 3 hour journey, so we headed off at 2:30pm so that we’d get there when it was still reasonably light so that putting up tents etc. wouldn’t be in the dark.
The ride was uneventful, but always very pretty driving through the mountain ranges of the UAE. Just before the check point we stopped for a pit stop and to grab some pre-dinner dinner (carbo loading 😉 ). The girls hit the check point first and went through all hunky dory. We drove down the road a bit to find a place that was safe to stop and waited for the boys. And waited. And waited. And WAITED. Eventually we started getting worried so we messaged them and got a reply: Big problems.
We turned around and T walked up to the check point to find out what was going on. N & I stayed in the car, dreaming of seeing the car come over the bridge with all 3 people in… a missing person (or 2) would mean either no race, or a very difficult race for the rest of us 😦 Eventually T walks back to the car and tells us the plans – coincidentally a car behind the boys had the same issue as our guys… one of the travellers had had their UAE residence visa cancelled the week prior to the race and so they were not allowed to cross the border 😡 They had to drive to Ras Al Khaimah and exit through there as they have immigration and can deal with the paperwork and stamping of passports correctly. Only another 3 or so hours added to the trip for those involved 😦
So we headed off to the camp site (all my warm clothes in the other car 😦 ) and waited while our 5th person enjoyed another 3 hours of road tripping around the UAE, and finally made it to us around 10pm.
The next morning was thankfully much less eventful – we were up at about 5:30am in the freezing cold and dark, putting on lots of layers of clothes and packing the support vehicle for the 72 km’s ahead of us. We then headed off to the start line and we were off! Just 72 km’s of trail / gravel and off-road running to get through, with just one hill to climb of only 700m rise in elevation over 3.5 km’s… easy peasy 😉
The race is broken up into 12 stages out, and then you turn around and run those 12 stages back. 5 runners on a team, each person runs approximately 5 or 6 times, each doing a total of anywhere between 10km’s and 18 km’s, depending on which legs of the course you run. Now, that doesn’t sound so tough, but once you consider the fact that you’re running on gravel, probably putting in a bit more effort than you would on a run of that distance because it’s broken up, and then you’re stopping, sitting in a car, getting cold, running, getting hot, sitting, standing, eating, hydrating, running again. It’s tough on the body and the mind.
My favourite leg of my runs was the longest one that I did – 4.2 km’s. I got the baton and I darted off, and my legs just did not stop. I was the only runner on that section of the road at the time I was running and I was flying through it. I wasn’t sure how fast I was running because I didn’t have any earphones or anything in, but it felt fast. And then I heard someone behind me which made me run even faster! Eventually he overtook me and that was when I decided that I’d better slow down a touch, but next thing I knew I saw the cars ahead and so I picked up the pace again until I handed the baton over.
I checked my run stats once I was in the car and I really had done well – 4.2 km’s in 19:43. An average of 4:42 per km!
Unfortunately though my next run, 3.5 km’s, was not as good, finishing that leg in 19:21. But we were almost at the finish line so we continued to push ourselves, and finally saw the finish line ahead… just to get through the sand and cross the finish line, and get that medal!
We enjoyed a nice warm meal, some nice cold waters / drinks, and then headed back to our camp site to pack up and head home.
Wadi bih – I’ll definitely be back!
You can click on any of the photos in the gallery below to open up a bigger view of them.