February 25th shall always be remembered as Kuwait’s National day; the date of the dissolution of the Anglo-Kuwaiti agreement.
Yesterday, February 25th, 2013, shall be remembered as the day the Q8FootSoldiers ran 25KM in celebration of Kuwait’s National Day!
It started off as a solo goal that spiraled into a three-man operation. I woke up at 10:30am and decided I wanted to go for a run, but not just any run, a monumental run, a run to signify something. It has been almost 3 years since I last was in Kuwait to witness the celebrations of National & Liberation day, and I aimed to witness them first hand. It would be suicide to attempt to drive on the Gulf Road, the epicenter of activity and the most likely road for congregation and fun. So I decided to let my feet carry me towards the festivities, and they nay did disappoint!
Having posted the word on Q8FootSoldiers Facebook page, 3 runners answered the call. One backed out due to the heat, so we were left with 3 (including myself).
The first two, aptly named Ayman & Ayman, met in Hawally at 3:30pm and headed towards Salmiya at roughly 3:45pm. We had no cell phones on us, which would be an integral problem later on in the story.
We realized that all manner of vehicle was bedecked in Kuwaiti flags, and feeling a little left out, we decided to see if we can “procure” any flags. Ask and you shall receive, for as we ran the stretch of the 4th Ring Road between Hawally and Salmiya, a lone flag appeared on the horizon, discarded on the side of the road. We picked it up and carried on forward. It was small, but it fit perfectly on the back of my bandana.
No sooner had we found that one did we come across another one, for the other Ayman! The flags just kept on appearing on the road! We were given many a curious look from pedestrians and drivers alike, but we stayed true to the path and veered off the 4th Ring Road towards the Gulf Road.
As we rounded the Gulf Road, the traffic began to emerge. Subtle at first, but quickly turning into bumper to bumper. Cars were glamoured up in the national colors of Red, White, Green and Black, with people becoming extremely creative as to their attire, from Kuwaiti flag afro’s to giant Kuwait flags draped across cars, as well as other Gulf Countries, most noticeably UAE, Qatar & Saudi Arabia. Along the Gulf road we found the mother load, discarded giant flags of Kuwait! We picked them up without hesitation and fiddled with getting them on properly.
The people were out in full force, and fortunately for us, the foam tradition was completely eradicated, replaced instead with water guns. Fortunately for us, not many people took interest in dousing us with water. Many actually cheered us on!
As we got to Marina Fountain we found our friend Antonio ready and waiting, and we quickly headed back to the Gulf Road for a commemorative run towards the Kuwait Towers, as opposed to our initial idea of running towards Burger King. The Kuwait Towers were the real epicenter of National activity, and for the first and last time in our lives, we would be travelling faster than the cars of the Gulf Road!
I could attempt to describe the beauty of the road, of the decorated cars and people, of the atmosphere of festivity and merriment or show it in a picture, but you had to be there to witness it first hand.
I am feeling generous; behold! (thank you Antonio):
Heading up towards the Towers, the most noticeable encounter was a man that ran into us at the 6K mark, he asked what we were doing, I answered we were running 25K to celebrate February 25th. He wished us luck as we passed him. We ran into him again at the 9K mark, and he was impressed, even offered us water.
Of course, we did get sprayed a few times, mostly we were caught in the middle between two rivaling water gangs, and sometimes passengers in cars were a bit cheeky, but all in all, it was quite delightful.
We rounded the Kuwait Towers at sundown almost, with enough sun left to take the following pictures to commemorate the occasion:
Ayman & Antonio
An Antonio Sandwich
Ayman & Antonio again!
Ayman & Ayman!
Ayman, Antonio, Ayman
Remember, all these flags were recovered from the road!
As we were running along the road we saw a cop manhandle a youth by the scruff of his neck for some offence the latter must have committed, the Police were out in full force, both in vehicles and on foot, keeping the peace and ensuring all had fun within the confines of the law. I had picked up a water balloon but failed to get it to detonate on target.
Now at 10K we were in desperate need of water, however, none was to be found. We covered a distance of another 5K before Ayman fell victim to a foot injury. Antonio kept him company.
As I had stated to anyone that would listen what my intentions for the day were, I carried on with the run, hoping to clock 25K. We parted ways at 15.
Along the way, I realized that Esha prayer was almost upon us, and I was in need of praying Maghreb. Fortunately, a mosque came within my view and I veered off towards it. Again, fortunately for me, my ablution was intact since leaving the house, as the mosques had turned off their water in the bathrooms, which served as refueling stations for the masses out in full force with their water guns.
After prayer I got back on the road with a renewed sense of purpose, the distance was being ticked off and I was slowly inching towards my goal. I came across a fellow draped in the Saudi flag that foolishly tugged at the Kuwaiti flag I had draped from my bandana over my back, costing me a few seconds of having to arrange it properly again. I was pelted with water along the way, apparently people’s sense of decency disappeared with the sun, and the rambunctious crowd was eager to squirt the last few remaining drops on anything that moved.
Finally it seemed, I reached the promised land, and came to the parking lot of Marina Mall. Joy and fatigue rained on me, but my quest was far from done, as I still had 5K to cover.
By the 22K mark, I was thirsty beyond reason. I found a water cooler with kids lined up to fill their water guns. I had thought that they would courteously allow me to drink my fill, which would take much less time than them filling their tanks with water. No such luck however, and this was by far the most sour incident of the day. At first the tiny group of midgets squabbled amongst themselves as one asked the other, انت شنو اصلك؟ which translates to what is your origin, to which the other replied “مطيري”, at such a young age of no more than 10 years old, they are already exercising a form of racism. The Mutairi kid obnoxiously stepped in front of me, half my height and almost my same weight he was. All attempts at reason were lost, and I was in no position to wait for the water, so I simply informed the brute I wished to drink. The slur of words that oozed their way out of this child’s mouth were worthy of a slap across his airbag like cheeks, however, equally cold and calculated I simply informed him that when he can run 22K at once, he can have the right to drink water first, before running off into the dark to continue with my quest, the music in my ears blanketing out the sounds of the elephant boy.
I am not proud of what I said to him, yet I feel insulted that children are being raised at such a young age to feel so superior to others. Rule number one is always, always, always respect your elders.
Moving on, the 23K came around the Scientific center, and to ensure I would get the most out of distance, I rounded off at the first gazebo like structure after walking the plank.
My vigor renewed I kept pushing forward towards the finish line, and sure enough, the 25th K was finally done.
My friends and I had separated, and with no phones on any of us, reconnecting was a monumental task that never materialized. We never did meet again. I was left with a very tough question – how to get home? The soles of my feet were already screaming in agony, and I had no pockets on me meaning no cash, no means to get home except the same means that brought me there. So I decided to leg it, once again.
Another group of kids saw me fiddling with the iPod on my shoulder and inquired as to what I was doing, after hearing of my 25K journey, they applauded me and went on their way. A welcome change from my earlier encounter with youth.
The run back home was not an easy one, but I did it. Then I realized, I was a mere 6K away from doing something I had never done before – clocking a distance of 42.2KM in a single day i.e. a full fledged marathon!
Upon getting home, I discovered that this was what my feet were complaining about:
Despite this, I persevered and added 6K to my daily mileage, finally breaking the marathon barrier.
Totally worth it!
Happy National Day Kuwait – Foot Soldier Style!