Part 2: RAK Marathon Review – The Run that Broke the Camels Back!

Having survived a delay of 6 hours, as well as further delay in the airport, in addition to even more delay at the hotel, it would appear that we had hit our lowest rung and, as the saying goes, everything will look up from here.

The beauty of travelling with professional runners is the presence of enough sprays, gels and ointments to tranquilize an entire army of feet. Feeling a tad woozy from the extended travel time and minimum rest I set about numbing my ligaments to the point of feeling as though I was running on air (many thanks to my room-mate for speeding up the recovery afterward)

Stretching out the tired limbs early morning

A last minute check of the items; I had my trusty n97 to clock the distance for myself via my favorite running program; Sports Tracker (Which surprisingly was EXTREMELY accurate compared to the actual race timers), my bandana (a gift from my lovely fiance that keeps her on my mind as well as in my heart), the armband to carry the n97 courtesy of a friendly neighborhood Runner (@elberk el7oot this one’s for you!), my iPod (checked to ensure it was NOT on shuffle) and a pin to keep my pocket shut to avoid any incidents where the iPod decides its “gonna fly now”.

 A minibus was waiting downstairs to chart us off to our final destination.

The first we noticed was despite the hour being early, there were plenty of early risers buzzing about the grounds, collecting their race packets, pinning their bibs onto their chests, performing all kinds of stretches and pre-run warm ups. Everyone was friendly now, ready to turn to enemy later as soon as the race started.

Henceforth I shall be known as 1952

As the sun started to slowly etch its way up the horizon, the competition began to arrive by the busloads. Runners from every corner of the globe congregated at this spot to participate in the 6th edition of the RAK Half Marathon from as far away as Kenya and Ethiopia, all with different goals in mind that focused on the same concept: health.

my red&black running pumps - ready to slap the pavement

A really big shoe...

It was exhilarating to be amidst such a diverse a group of runners; there were veiled runners, elderly runners, young runners and toddlers. To have the chance to rub shoulders with running elite and literally follow in their footsteps was awe inspiring. Here you had people that would finish the race in 1hr40seconds.

Race packs collected - ready to go!

The Ultra Marathoners - Running Royalty and most importantly, mes ami's

Some runners had a game plan (my 3 partners did), others had goals, and the rest, like myself, were just out there to have a good time (after failing to beat my goal, this was my consolation prize)

me along side the Aymstrong team bound to Run Kuwait next weekend

Professional running experience dictated that we head for the start line relatively early to secure a good position. There was a lane down the middle reserved only for serious runners who were there to break a record. Choosing to cut into that lane from the side proved to be extremely beneficial as it allowed us to edge closer to the starting point as opposed to having to navigate through a throng of excited runners.

An introduction from the presenter had us all on our last nerve; the race was about to start! I bid my friends goodbye knowing that I would not see them until the end of the race.

3, 2, 1.. off we went!

My iPod tried to pull a fast one on me again but I managed to fix it up just in time. Whipping my head sideways at every step to take in the scenery, the sites and the other runners. The race was an ad-fest, with every individual wearing some form of corporate logo on their back, whether for financial gain or simply as a favor to a friend I do not know, but runners have strange fashion senses!

The level of sophistication present was also mind-boggling; runners had flasks of water-filled vials in a belt around their waist, others had straps on their thighs, their calves, their shoulders etc. The more hardcore runners had celotape marks all of their bodies, meant to keep the earphone wires from causing any form of disturbance.

Some runners smelled like a batch of roses, others had me reeling in drunken, disoriented stupor. Word to the wise joggers, an early morning shower does wonders to wake you up and help others running around you as well!

Whilst looking ahead, I spotted a t-shirt reading “Joe 99” who appeared to be travelling at the same pace as me. Unknowing to him, he became my mile-marker and newly appointed arch nemesis, all my thoughts revolved around maintaining the pace behind him. As we got to the 5K mark, I made it a point to pass ahead of him. The competition was getting interesting with the ebb and flow of him passing me, after which I would surpass him.

The race towards the 6K mark was devious in that the path suddenly narrowed, (the streets previous were spacious and clean) and extremely wet as inconsiderate runners were dumping their water bottles directly on the streets causing them to become wet and worse, slippery.

A strange incident took place after 6K; a man I never met in my life ran up to me and was apparently talking to me! I merely smiled and nodded, then he grabbed my hand, running with me! At this point I began to wonder, who is pulling who? Is he making me expend more energy to drag him behind me? I kept thinking, let go, let go, let go, let go!

I finally managed to break free of his grip and sprinted ahead, bidding him farewell.

I noticed one runner beside me was not wearing shoes; the ultimate in minimalist running. However, ladies, please, minimalist shoes is one thing, minimalist running shorts are entirely different! You may as well be running naked!

Joe 99 was creeping up fast; he managed to overtake me at 6K and then disappeared ahead of me. I decided it was not worth the effort to catch up, as the real race started at 15K, I needed to leave energy in the tank.

The supporters were awesome, egging everyone one enthusiastically and giving all a thumbs up oblivious to who they were. Both my attempts at sipping water failed miserably as they left me choking and gasping for breath.

Closing in on 10K I spotted the familiar green running shorts and white t-shirt of my nemesis, he had started walking! Feeling rejuvenated I caught up and made the mistake of patting him on the back. That confirmed to him that the runner in black and red was aware of him, and increased his drive to catch up. I would always look over my shoulder to find him a few paces away. Despite crossing the 10K mark first, he soon caught up, and again, I was eating his dust.

Deciding that it was childish to keep up, I ended my little one-upmanship with Joe99 and stuck to my own devices.

As we rounded the 14K mark, he appeared once more on the horizon, walking again! Once again rejuvenated, I caught up and took the lead in the worst conditions imaginable, as the 14-17K was near the stables of RAK rank with horse manure. Also, the roads were perilous in that the roundabout where the runners head back was badly incomplete with pebbles and stones that could easily lodge themselves in the soles of your shoes and cause grievous injuries.

Carefully I pushed forward, aware of Joe99’s ever looming presence, my attempts at sprinting were met with complaining ligaments as my legs were starting to give out, the numbing sensation slowly ebbing.

Sadly, Joe99 caught up to me at the 17K marker, and that was the last I saw of him; his much longer legs propelling him forward as I fell into obscurity.

It seemed as though I was a marker, as it appeared to me that more people were crossing me than I was crossing other people. The worst feeling is when you are overtaken by a gang of runners together in one group.

By the 19K marker, everyone was running past me as I trotted along like a lazy cow, choosing to become oblivious of those running ahead of me and focusing only on my music.

Further disappointment ensued when I realized that the finish line was banner-less, hence my hopes of displaying a last minute ignition of speed and agility were shattered.

I crossed the finish line at 1hr56, one minute above my previous 21K record in Kuwait, and 6 minutes more than a solo run I did earlier this year.

I met up with my friends (After great difficulty and 3 gatorades that served to make me beyond queasy) who had been prancing about the Finish line for 20 minutes before I decided to grace them with my presence.

Champions

Whilst posing for a photograph, who should appear behind me, in a final effort to add insult to injury, completely and utterly coincidentally?

That's him - Joe 99 (-.-)

Talk about being kicked whilst down.

The RAK Crowd

The group decided to split in two; alongside The Rainmaker we journeyed on foot to our hotel, a mere 2Km away, just in time to enjoy a hearty breakfast.

breakfast of champions

Our misfortune would not end however, as during the taxi ride to Dubai, the taxi sign actually FLEW off the roof of the car!

Overall, it was a successful, eventful, funfilled journey – strengthening bonds of friendship that are sure to last for a long time, and for many a race to come.

In the end, it is not a matter of who finished in what time, the very act of participating speaks volumes of peoples drives, the second act of carrying yourself over the finish line says the rest.

Everyone was a winner in one form or another that day.

August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

September 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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