When I first sat down and drew up a bucket list, on it I included running international races. So when my race/running buddy, Nat, suggested a half marathon in Salalah, I jumped at the opportunity! I can finally say that I have got a foot in the door! Albeit only in a neighbouring country, and my bucket list does state that I want to look at races further afield than just around here in the GCC / Middle East…. but, you gotta start somewhere, right?!
So, I made sure from that point that I did not skimp on my weekly runs and did my best to get some proper distance in – after all, this race was a half marathon! But, running in the UAE, in mid-summer, is not an easy feat. Temperatures over 45 °C, humidity between 60% – 80%. I got out the door as often as I could, and ran for as long as I could although unfortunately never getting further than 9km’s 😦 But I was not going to let that deter me. I’ve run about 5 half marathons before and I knew that I could do it!
We flew out to Salalah after work on Thursday evening and arrived at the hotel late at night, so we simply hit the sack. Friday morning we were up for breakfast and then headed over to the start line to collect our race bags. Since we then had a few hours to kill before having to be back for the 4pm start, we asked our taxi driver to show us around. And what a treat that was! He took us up into the mountains, past the Sultan’s palace and down to the beach, and then back to our hotel so we could grab a last minute nap and lunch before the race.
We headed across to the start line at about 2pm as we were told to be there early to collect our bib numbers and timing chips. We then hung around waiting for other runners to arrive, and for that inevitable countdown to the start of the race.
Was I nervous? Yes. But to be honest I carefully pushed those thoughts from my head because, although it was humid and crap weather (drizzling and grey), I had been training in this kind of humidity so I had planned my race around that. Just go with your body. Don’t push yourself too hard as this is the first race of the season, and you clearly have not had nearly enough time on your feet to be warranting any great times. Just get out there, and enjoy the run!
I decided to run without knowing my pace – switch those little voices off – and went entirely on feel. I felt great setting off and settled into a nice rhythm with a couple in front of me. For ages it was just the 3 of us, until I eventually passed them at about 4km’s (there was no signage on the route so everything was guestimating).
After that I slowly got closer to another runner who eventually told me to ‘just go ahead and pass me’, because he knew that I was closing in. I comfortably passed him and wished him well for the rest of the race, and then set my eyes on the next person to catch up to and hopefully overtake. Slow and easy.
It was around this point that my music then died. I always run with music so knowing that I still have approximately 14 km’s to go with none was a little worrying… but I had no choice so I pushed those thoughts out of my head. And I did quite well at it… until I reached approximately 8 km’s where my body decided it needed a rest. Time for a walk break 😦 And I now started focusing on every ache and pain in my legs and body.
I kept pushing myself and was so happy to see Nat as we passed each other around the halfway point (she was quite far ahead of me) – it picked up my spirits just that little bit that I needed. I had come halfway… all I had to do was get back to the finish line now.
The second half of the race was incredibly difficult for me – I was run-walk-run-walking the whole way back. I tried to keep the running bits as long as possible, and when I had people come up behind me that I’d recently passed, it helped push me along to keep ahead of them. And once I saw the lights of the finish line in the distance, I knew that I had to just dig deep and finish the race as strong as possible.
The last kilometer or so I pulled on all my reserves and made sure I ran it all. As I got close to the entrance of the finishing straight, I picked the pace up, and saw Nat on the corner cheering me on! I slowed down just a touch again so that I could take the final corner and then sprint to the finish line – crossing it in a (disappointing) time of 2:27:16.
I was very thankful to then have Nat tell me that everyone had finished around 10 – 15 minutes slower than their target so it made the finishing time a little easier to swallow… I had hoped for a 2:16 / 2:20 finish so I was within the range of everyone else.
As this was the first race held by the Muscat Triathlon Club, there were a few teething problems, but mostly it was a great race (nothing they can do about the weather!)
Having the bag collection and then bib number collection split into 2 was a terrible idea – why they didn’t have it done at once is beyond me and it was very frustrating for runners to have to hang around the start line for around 2 hours for no reason. But they did have a DJ there who kept the atmosphere lively, so not a total fail.
Having a 4pm start was really strange. I’ve done a night race before but I don’t remember that feeling so weird. I wasn’t sure how to fuel properly during the day and was so worried that I’d overeat, or over drink. However, I don’t know if it was a terrible thing to have the later start and I would probably enter another race with a start like this.
The course was an extremely easy, completely flat, out and back route. But there was absolutely no signage in terms of how far you’d run, or which way to turn. Luckily the police on duty knew what was going on and were extremely helpful, even to the point of being very supportive and cheering us on! And the volunteers were just amazing! At one water station on my way back, I was really struggling and walking at that point and the volunteers started running next to me and really helping to get me going again. Unfortunately the water stations themselves were not great in terms of them handing out full 500ml bottles of water. This is a total waste. I also don’t know why they had coke at the water stations… but they had orange slices which seemed a huge hit with some of the runners, so kudos to them for that 🙂
Coming in to the finish line I was hot, tired, sore and thirsty. And they had run out of water! This was not a wise thing to let happen. While they did tell me that it was coming, they should be more aware of how much is left at all times so that they can get more there in time before it runs out.
Overall, not a total fail as an event and I would probably look at doing it again.
(Extremely long post finished 😉 )