OK, I know I normally post my Something New entries on a Thursday, but I’m just so excited about this one that I’m going to be a few days early – there is absolutely no chance of anything new happening for the rest of this week that could top off the Hatta Hills Running Festival! Get ready for a looooong one!
A few weeks ago, Nat and I were talking about what races we wanted to enter and we came across a half marathon out in Hatta. Without reading too much into it we registered, booked a hotel room for the night before and waited for the day to arrive.
We knew that it was going to be a hilly race, and the race briefing mentioned it being a difficult course, but when my friend T sent me a message a couple of days before saying “It’s very hilly”, only then did we really start worrying about what we were getting ourselves into. Hills are not something that most Dubai-based runners do a lot of, and having recently completed the RAK half marathon which is extremely flat, we knew that we didn’t really have the proper training behind us. Oh well, we’ll just go with the flow on the day.
We didn’t really make heads or tails of the course map, but since this was an inaugural race, it meant that regardless of what we looked at on the map, this was brand new to everyone… and just to make it a bit more fun, the organisers had to change the course slightly on the day of the race because of massive storms in the area the night before.
So the morning arrives, we get our breakfast down and head over to the start / finish line and wait for the whistle… and off it goes at 7am sharp!
Right from the get-go you knew that this really was going to be a hilly race – as we headed out of the hotel we made our way up a main street… a long gradual incline. We turned off the main street and entered a park – aptly named Hill park! Most of the run was just up and down these gradual hills which don’t really look like much but you can really feel it… and then we hit the HILL!
There was absolutely no way I was going to be running up this bad boy and I’m pretty sure that everyone felt exactly the same way! Nat and I passed each other at this point – her already on the way down – and she called out to me “What were we thinking?!” But we were in it and kept pushing… I was still feeling good at this point and when you come down the hill, something magic happens in your legs and they just open up again on the straight, relatively flat road. Such a great feeling!
Twists and turns, you just keep following the marshals directions (a few very welcome support stations handing out energy drinks on the way) and keep pushing. Nat and I crossed each other again a few km’s further along and she called out “Bad news ahead” and kept going…. oh boy! My thoughts were either that it was water or another hill…. and because I could see a hill in front of me, but it looked like the one we’d just come down, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Another hill it was!
It was pretty much the same incline, but marginally shorter. This one had me actually stop along the way to catch my breath, even while walking, but I knew that I just had to get to the bottom again for that magic to happen in my legs again. Push. Push. Push.
Once I’d conquered that hill, we were now at approximately 12 km’s so there was still a fair way to go, but I was still feeling pretty good.
Unfortunately that feeling did not last much longer 😦
The 14 km mark was back along the same road that we had run to get up to the first nasty hill, and I was starting to panic that we’d have to do a hill a 3rd time. There was no way I was going to be able to manage that… I could feel my body starting to take strain. So I was extremely glad when I once again crossed Nat who was coming back down the road and I asked her if we do the hill again – she shook her head no and said “You turn around at some point”. HUGE relief!
“You can do this” I told myself. You only stop when your legs are dead. You will finish this race, and you will run across the finish line. I reached the turn around point and was very happy to say goodbye to the nasty hills, and now only about 6 km’s to go.
In my head I now imagined that we simply ran pretty much straight home – at least that’s what I had made out on the map… but I didn’t consider the fact that they had changed the course this morning, so when we had to take yet another dog leg, UP A HILL (but nowhere near as steep as the 2 nasty guys), I started hitting the wall. Mentally I was just about done, and physically I was not far off.
Behind me I heard a runner call out to someone he knew – only 4 km’s to go – so I knew that this was it… just exit this dog leg (a few claps from the marshal definitely helped!) and I’m on the last straight. And this bit is a gradual decline now so should be a piece of cake.
Well, not so much.
This is where my wheels started falling off drastically and I ended up having to walk/run for most of the next 2 km’s. When I reached the 19 km mark I really wanted to try run the whole way, but that was not to be. Just get to that lamp post ahead and then run. I kept doing this until I saw the 20 km mark – I gave it a high five as I passed it – and aimed to run the final kilometer.
I rounded the round-about just as you enter the hotel’s gates, and was feeling pretty much finished… and my legs decided that enough was enough. WALK. I was almost in tears at this point because I was now only a few hundred meters from the finish line and I would absolutely NOT walk across it. I saw the hotel security guys ahead and they started clapping, and another runner came up behind me and told me to keep pushing – just the encouragement I needed! I found that last little bit of adrenaline and pushed to the finish line where I then saw Nat and T waiting at the finish line for me, clapping and calling my name.
I ran across the finish line, swore at it that it was also up a (tiny) hill and gladly accepted my medal and breakfast voucher.
Although my last 4 km’s were so absolutely painful and terrible, I did really enjoy this race – being able to push myself the way I did, knowing that this was something that my body had not done before…. and completely surprising myself with a very acceptable finish time of 2:16:04 – only 2 minutes slower than my previous best half marathon time. I had sort of thought that a 2:20 finish would be good, judging by my recent epic time at RAK, so coming in 4 minutes under that, even with the walking that was done in those last km’s, I could not ask for a better time, knowing that I pushed myself as hard as I could on the day.
I hope to be back at the Hatta Hills Running festival next year!