Dubai Marathon 2015 – Ouch

My new employer is big into health & wellness. I was caught up in the emotion and nominated with the team to run the full marathon, my third Dubai marathon in four years.

This is a blog about a marathon I ran. So I should start with all the excuses from the outset.

  • I hadn’t planned or trained for this marathon
  • The temperature was warmer than most of my runs
  • At the buffet on the evening before the race, the queue at the pasta (carbs) station was too long
  • I wasn’t born and bred in Kenya, nor trained with their highland tribes
  • I’m not Ethiopian. (2015 marathon male results).
  • With that out of the way, I can share that this was an amazing, painful, gritty, enjoyable run.

    I joined forces with a 4 hour bus which formed from the Striders running group. Four hours was always going to be a stretch goal for me this year. But i figured their pacing would assist to tame the cheetah in me that usually goes out too hard.

    Perhaps typical to Dubai, it was a dodgy bus. It disintegrated practically before it began, with all members having different plans how to reach their goal. After the usual pre-run rituals, I positioned myself with those whose strategy was to go slowest.

    For something different I had planned to listen to Rock My Run. It plays pumping music and adjusts the beat to your preferred pace, or heart rate.
    It only worked until I opened my running tracker. Oops. Then I switched back and it only worked until my phone went onto standby. So I gave up on that just as we were about to start. The crowd of runners at the start began to move forward and I needed a plan B, so I just put the music on my iPhone onto shuffle.

    It was a fitting song for that moment, Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming”.

    The song soon after was Adele – Chasing Pavements. If I had planned ahead I wouldn’t have included that in the playlist. What depressing lyrics for a marathon:

    “Should I give up?
    Or should I just keep chasin’ pavements
    Even if it leads nowhere..”

    The pace was much slower than what I’m used to. It gave me the opportunity to watch more of the other runners, and enjoy being part of such a special event. I’m always in awe how there are so many different people running the same course. There are the professionals and the rest of us. Then there are all the different ages and body types. And some have every piece of gadgetry and all the expensive running brand apparel, yet they get overtaken comfortably by a guy with a pony tail wearing what looks like his pyjamas, although I suspect he may have even come directly from a Shisha cafe.

    Another guy was singing out loud and waving his hands around with great enthusiasm which was fun for everyone around. The lady beside me suggested he wasn’t even listening to anything, the headphones were just for show. Ha!

    Perhaps the most inspiring thing I saw on the day was the blind marathon runner. He and his companion had already turned around several kilometres ahead of me. I struggle to walk 10 paces with my eyes closed without being overwhelmed. It’s impossible to fathom, running at full pace with just a string tethered to someone whom you trust to be your eyes. He received the loudest cheer from me and my fellow runners.

    I felt strong and I could keep up this pace for the whole race. I thought. Around 28kms I began to hurt, and my counterpart in the bus was slowing too. I realised at this point it would only get a whole lot worse from there.

    And each kilometre did get worse.

    I thought I had just hit the wall early. Nope, those were just contractions. At 37kms I could physically not move forward. I stopped and let the various points of agony take over my legs. I stretched. Well, I tried. Then after a lot of grimacing, I started to shuffle forward again. I appreciated the encouragement from a fellow runners. Everyone was hurting, everyone wants each other to succeed.

    As I continued I had to increasingly adjust my running style to avoid the cramps in my legs.

    It got to the point near a water stop I recall I was approaching a bottle top on the road yet I couldn’t lift my foot high enough to clear it.

    If I stopped it would take longer. So with determination I just continued with whatever tiny amount of movement I could manage, and kept moving forward. Then it was just a count down. 5kms to go. 4, 3, 2, are we there yet? 1km then I turned right onto Umm Suqeim road and the finish line came into view. It still looked so far away.. Though nothing could stop me now.

    I crossed the finish line. All I could do was stand frozen and enjoy the relief from no longer having to move my cramping legs. It could have been a minute or five, tho I suspect it was somewhere in between.

    I stopped tracking my running activity on my phone. My phone’s battery was down to 7%. My own battery might have been lower.

    Before we both switched off I called my wife to tell her which tree I’d be passed out under.
    Despite the hardship, perhaps because of it, I thoroughly enjoyed getting through my sixth full marathon in eight years.
    It hurt, but not as much as the regret of not doing it while I can.