It was a glorious day. The second 642 Marathon to be held in Kuwait, for everyone that doesn’t recall, on this very same day last year I wrote the review on the last 642 Marathon (link).
As many of you readers are aware, I will inject a bit of my own personal story with the marathon amidst my review, as well as put in the opinions of my fellow runners on things I did not witness (but they do sound great).
For any race to truly improve, the thoughts and troubles of the participants have to be taken into consideration; our observations last year can be summarized as follows:
First: start time of the Marathon (42KM). NOT FIXED.
Second: usage of cones to properly segregate the full-side of the road. PARTIALLY FIXED
Third: GPS Signal inside Mubarakiya. RESOLVED
Fourth: the re-run of distances for the 42KM. NOT FIXED.
Fifth: Sharp turn atop bridge on return run. RESOLVED.
Sixth: Energy Gels. NOT AVAILABLE AT ALL.
Seventh: Roads Opened. NA
So here we go:
FIRST: Everyone was expecting the race to start at 7:30AM, whereas the FB event had the run starting at 8AM, we started at 7:57AM.
SECOND: LAVATORIES! For the love of all things holy, we are NOT CAMELS! I can run 21KM without needing sustenance or nourishment, anything past 27 and I would need water. Those running 42KM, and especially those coming from abroad to take part in an official marathon in Kuwait, expect the creature-comfort of porta-potties along the road. I saw many a runner stop and enter the nearest landmark in desperate search of relief. Cabins along the way are a necessity especially for the full-marathon runners.
THIRD: demarcation. I was relieved (not that type of relieved from the point above) to see that the turn-around towards Mubarakiya at the roundabout was split with cones to show people where to go and separate those running toward Mubarakiya and those running back. However, when all the runners finished the stretch in Mubarakiya (where GPS signal remained strong btw) and were running back toward the roundabout, there was a clash of sorts between those heading towards and those heading away, I had to clap and shout to get walkers to not cross in front of me, as I was veering left toward KPC.
FOURTH: overeager volunteers. It is great to give up your time to help others out, but if I am trying to run, please do not stand in a cluster or in my path to give me water; stand to the side, I spent most of my time running past stations shaking my finger that, thank you, I do not need nourishment.
FIFTH: road condition. A friend of mine ran the half marathon barefoot. I shudder to think what he went through, given that I, depsite wearing shoes, felt uncomfortable on the road, the stretch from after Souq Sharq all the way down to KFC, due to the fact that the tarmac was not flat in all cases – it was jagged. Given that this event gives so much revenue to the organizers, is it not possible for them to request the government to ensure the road is properly taken care of? (You can disallow this as a complaint on the race itself as it has more to do with the government).
SIXTH: no energy gels. Period. Not even at the half marathon loop around.
SEVENTH: Marathon start time. I noticed that as the first of the marathoners returned, the stands off giveaways and food were almost depleted (keep in mind the first to cross the finish line for the marathon took 2hrs47mins, whereas some took longer than 5hrs). THE MARATHONERS NEED TO START EARLIER! The organizers are interested in a giant crowd for the sake of the media, but if we look at the numbers:
5K – 380 males, 394 females (TOTAL: 774)
10K – 421 males, 205 females (TOTAL: 626)
21K – 245 males, 81 females (TOTAL: 326)
42K – 57 males, 11 females (TOTAL: 68)
GRAND TOTAL: 1,794
The marathoners represent 3.8% of the total participants, even if you ask them to run on the sidewalk if the police do not allow you to close of the roads from say, 6:30AM, have them start ahead of the crowd! It is extremely unfair that those that pay the highest fees end up getting nothing in the end in terms of food and beverage. In addition, at the beginning there is a huge crowd at the finish line to motivate runners, those that need the most motivation (having run 41.9KM by the time they reach close to the finish line) had little to no support! And speaking of nothing, we look at …
EIGHTH: the goody-bag. Last year there was none, not even a shirt. This year, a shirt, a small sandwich, coupons (seriously?) and that’s it. I believe the organizer needs to work hard on their ability to “give back” part of the fees as gifts to the participants (case-in-point – RunQ8 – they’re giving a pedometer this year,
NINTH: the medal. The medal has a great design, and this year the colors were changed so that the medals do not repeat last year. Those that did half and full marathons have the option to put their time on the medal itself. Last year stickers were given to the finishers. This year however, no stickers were available. I asked at the finish line and was told to go to registration, I went to registration and was told to go to the finish line.
TENTH: T-shirt sizes. When we registered, we were asked to select a shirt size, which puts us under the impression that said shirt in said size will definitely be claimed by us as prize. Once the runners started pouring in, the later you came the less likely you were to find your selected size. Which is kind of strange, should it not have been placed in my goody-bag, with my bib number as a way to identify that it is my selection?
ELEVENTH: location, location, location. Sure, the bridge makes for a great starting line picture, even good to start going downhill, but after a long run, be it 10, 21, or 42, running uphill is severely exhausting. In addition, whilst participating in the RAK half marathon in 2012, I remember reading a magazine about how the race is recognized by the world as an official half-marathon, and it stated certain prerequisites for the race to categorized in the world, one of which I believe was that the path should be scenic for the participants and the elevation should not exceed 5M. Especially given the fact that the race can always start on top of the bridge and end on the other side (where the fish market is). It boasts an expanse of flat land.
TWELFTH: trash. After reaching Souq Sharq once more, runners had to navigate around the walkers and strollers, and also avoid slipping on the array of plastic containers strewn haphazardly all over the ground. One particularly disturbing scene was after a water station, the amount of trash was unbelievable. There were only a few scattered cleaners attempting to pick things up. Firstly, organizers should place bins strategically along the race to prevent runners from chucking their garbage on the street. Secondly, participants should NOT litter. Third, if both first and second options fail, then the volunteers should attempt to keep the trash on the side of the road.
FIRST: the changing of the map. Last year, something strange happened. The date selected for the run coincided with the walk for Diabetes, which started at the Yacht Club and moved towards Souq Sharq, whereas we runners were going the other way (towards McDonald’s), this lead to a very perilous situation whereby the walkers had occupied the entire road + sidewalk, forcing runners to maneuver through them. This was mitigated this year by having the long distance runners head toward KPC for a good stretch, making our run towards Salmiya only until Friday’s, circumventing any clashes. Good job!
SECOND: medical attention; a friend of mine told me how his shins/calves had been acting up on the run, when he informed the peeps at the water stations, one was kind enough to provide a spray that quelled the pain. So again, good job!
Ever since I was diagnosed with “splay foot” I dialed back my running. I still signed up the half marathon in an attempt to motivate myself to reclaim my former glory. My practice runs were abysmal to say the least; when running a distance in excess of 15KM; the first time I tired out at 12KM and spent the rest walking, the second time I made it up to 16KM and trotted the rest. One week before the race however I attempted to do 18KM and trotted after 7KM. All my times were around 2hrs10mins. When push came to shove though however, on race day, I found myself scoring the distance at 1hr47min45secs. Last year, I was at 1hr46mins44secs.
So congratulations to everyone that ran that day, regardless of distance or time. You won!