Riyadh Half Marathon

December 4, 2015

Since returning back to Riyadh at the end of October, I’d not been overly active, but I had participated in a couple runs with the Riyadh Road Runners. And suddenly, it was time for their annual Half Marathon.

I’d hardly trained at all. Actually, let me clarify. I’d not trained at all for a half marathon. I’m an average runner. I run a couple 8-10kms runs a few times a week during a good running spell. But I’d not been running regularly for months now!

But hey, I’m totally game for a challenge. Plus, I had friends to run with. And how cool is it to run a half marathon out in the desert?!!!

It was a fresh cool morning as we headed out of the city to Dirab Golf Course where the race would be held. I was a bundle of nerves. But so pumped!

The air was fresh and clean and the grass was so green as we walked through the golf course, jittering in anticipation of the start.

 

And then… before I knew it… we were off!! We ran a couple kms through the golf course before turning left down a long road with a gentle incline to the top of a hill, sharp escarpments rising up ahead of us in the near distance… turning back the way we came before turning left again to run out over another not so gentle hill to the end of the course before returning back to the start… to do it all over again as that was just one roughly 10km lap of 21.1km total!

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That last hill was such a challenge. Silly me forgot my energy snacks for along the race so I was just completely out of energy, it was getting pretty warm in the sun at that point… and I don’t know how I kept going through it…

But finally I was on the home stretch… running up those last 500 meters or so… the finish line (and the clock in sight..) it was almost 2hours and 10 minutes and I so badly wanted to be under 2:10… so I dug deep and found some untapped energy source… and busted out a sprint to the finish line… to finish in 2:09:44 !!!!!!

I’ve never felt an endorphin rush quite like the one that comes from finishing a first major race… with a time you’re happy with… out in the desert… it was incredible and I feel so lucky to have been a part of that race!!!

Now… to plan for and train for the next one… definitely stepping it up to a full marathon next!

Running (in) Riyadh

I think I’ve run more in Riyadh than I’ve ever run in my life.

Year 1 was good for me. But not that good. I joined a running club, but missed the majority of the Friday morning races as my Thursday nights were usually busy and a little too entertainment filled for me to get up early on a Friday morning and run. However… Did manage to win the 10km race series in my category as somehow they were the only races I actually made it to!

Year 2 in Saudi… I was determined to run more and party less. And it started off really well. (And I’m proud to say that 5 months later… its better than ever!) I’ve only missed a few Friday morning runs and one was due to Christmas, the other 3 Fridays I missed I was out of the country.

My first race back was a 10mile race (of which I only ran half) but it was a fundraiser for an awareness project I’d become involved in shortly after arriving back in Riyadh called 10KSA… an organization devoted to promoting health and wellness in Saudi and around the world. Our first event was to be a breast cancer awareness event, and part of that was collaborating with a running group in Riyadh to raise money and gain support for the organization and event.

We ran at a venue I’d never run at before… there were more hills than usual… and steeper… but the view from the top of the hills over the farm was incredible! It was a good distance outside the city with a great mix of date palm forest and hilly/rugged/rocky terrain to run through… making it really great scenery to pass the time!

And… the best part was reconnecting with friends from the running group/making new friends… I love the social aspect of it and talking times/training plans, etc with people who share similar passions and goals when it comes to running and fitness. And although the club has some intensely competitive members, there are people there who are not nearly so fit but yet push themselves to finish even some very challenging runs, not just the short runs! And everyone is so supportive of each other too.

One day… a month or so after I returned to Saudi, there was a significant rainstorm and there was a lot of water hanging around in the low areas… We went for a run one morning to the DQ around the wadi… but found out quite quickly that getting down into the date palm forest on our usual trail would be a challenge as it was all flooded!! We all ended up getting a little muddy… but to be honest… it was pretty cool because it’s rarely damp/muddy in Riyadh, just dry and dusty! And… we found a poor little turtle on a dry spot of the road… so we put him back in the mud to find his way to a little pond…

I forgot how much I love waking up early on a Friday morning to run in the fresh fall/winter air (which in Riyadh is a cool 10ish degrees, maybe slightly more…) to run, and get a good endorphin high first thing in the morning… to feel productive and accomplished and good about myself… and to get outside in nature too rather than being sluggish indoors all day like I would otherwise…

Over the last few months in Riyadh, I’ve had a variety of amazing runs throughout Riyadh… sometimes races at compounds… sometimes in the Diplomatic Quarters (most often actually!). There have been rainy runs… foggy morning runs… a lot of sunny runs (like the time I got sunburnt in November??!!)… trail runs or road runs… and super fresh clean and green runs after recent rainfalls that turn the DQ into a big of a green/flowery paradise actually… a lovely contrast to the drab/dusty brown scene it usually is…

When I think back, I’ve just had so many runs with so many good people! Especially my regular running crew, the running lemons. Unfortunately over the last year or so we’ve lost valuable team members as they moved out of Saudi and on to new adventures… but we’ve also gained some new lemons…. and I gained a new and fabulous training partner/running buddy/amazing friend… and… showed some new friends the great trails through the DQ!

So… I love a good run thats me… solo… thinking life through… but even more… I love the people in my running community and in running communities around the world!!

Racing with the Riyadh Road Runners

October 10, 2014

Today… I ran my first race since high school (and high school didn’t count because I wasn’t a runner and was coerced into running a 1600 meter run for track & field because no one else wanted to do it!)

So… I’d heard about Riyadh’s running clubs before I arrived in the country and had been looking forward to joining one… as since high school I have turned into a bit of a runner…

And I finally joined the group… the Riyadh Road Runners! Now, I thought it was a social running club… but it’s not. This is a group of highly competitive and ridiculously fast individuals!!

But a challenge is good right??!?!

And I can’t believe I’m running in the desert! At home I’m one of those people who “can’t run” as soon as the temperature is above 20 degrees… or below 10. (That might be a bit of an exaggeration… haha)

So, I woke up early on the weekend… even stayed in on Thursday night so I’d be fit to run Friday morning… at 8am! Drove out a lovely compound about 30minutes from the hospital… with a couple girls… pumped to be running our first race of the “season!”

Pre race selfie:

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It was a beautiful day… cool in the morning… but it rapidly got warmer once the sun was fully out and we were running!

The race co-ordinators did a great job of getting everyone totally pumped up at the starting line… we would run 4 laps of the compound in order to run the full 10km race.

Unfortunately I was just getting over a nasty cold, so my running game wasn’t as on par as it could have been! But it was still heaps of fun!! I raced like a mad woman for the last couple hundred meters to the finish line!! (Not my actual time listed below… Just FYI :D)

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It was amazing!!! I was so energetic and excited and riding a bit of a runners high after I finished that race!! I’m not a morning runner usually… but it’s a beautiful thing to get up so early in the morning and get a good run in!!!

The girls I ran with are amazing as well… they’re so inspiring and motivating and encouraging! I thoroughly enjoyed running this race with them!

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So… first race was a success… can’t wait for the next one!!!

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As a side note… the pool here is lovely!! A dip after the race would have been gorgeous!! Next time definitely!!

imageAnd I can’t believe it’s October already and things are starting to get chilly at home and we’re still loving 30+ degree weather every day and heaps of sunshine!!! I do love this weather here!!!! Not missing the rain or the cold at all!!

Anyways… more to come on the RRR!! 😀 Many more races to be done!

xo

Annemarie