Wadi Bih 2014 – The Lowdown

Two weeks ago, on Tuesday night, I dislocated my shoulder playing netball. Ruddy netball. It’s an old, recurring injury (anyone who’s in the same position will feel my pain) that rears its head at inconvenient and seemingly innocuous moments (washing the car, play fighting, climbing over an inflatable in the deep end of a pool…) and this netball match was no different. After two hours, two x-rays, one sedation and no painkillers (seriously) the first thing I found myself asking my doctor was can I run on Friday? I’d been excited about running the Wadi Bih since we formed our team in October – I was even team captain! He looked at me as if I was mad, but conceded that I could, as long as I wore my shoulder immobiliser (like a sling, but also with a body wrap around to really incapacitate you). As far as I was concerned, he had said yes and I would be running. Think of it as a sequel to Competing in a Triathlon with a Broken Elbow, in my series Soph’s Events with Injuries.

Soph’s Striders!

In an effort not to write a painfully long and boring race report I have decided to ask myself the things I always want to know about other people’s races. Which is a bit like an insight to my mind, as well as learning all about the Wadi Bih, so that’s two for one you lucky bastards.

Were you excited or nervous or a mix? 

Sooooo excited. After six months of endless pounding flat pavements in 3 mile loops, I couldn’t wait to run up a mountain on a rocky path. Chloe and I had drawn up a rota and had also plotted a scatter graph showing gradient and distance on excel (this took two days of sheer brainpower and several emails with Chloe’s boyfriend, who works in IT).

I was ever so slightly nervous about making a tit of myself in front of 9 of my colleagues though.

What were you looking forward to?

Hills. Fresh air. Haribo. Running off the beaten track. Beautiful views. Rolling around the mountains in a 4×4. Not having to run more than 5k at a time and then getting to sit in the car and eat haribo. They sell Smurf haribo in Dubai you know.

Did you have any goals? 

To not make a tit of myself in front of my work colleagues (e.g. shit my pants halfway up a mountain or fall over somewhere and ruin everyone’s day) and to not be the slowest team. After disclosing my shoulder, I also added (i) not slipping over and dislocating my shoulder again and (ii) not passing out as the race was 48 hours after my general anaesthetic. Mainly because everyone told me not to run and it would have proved them right.

What was the best bit? 

All the bits. The sunrise at the start was magical – big and burning red over the sea.

My personal favourite section of running was my third section, the first section of the descent. It started with a bit of a killer hill, but once that was done it was a mix of downhill and flat. I was worried my legs would get stiff from running hard for a few km then sitting in the car but they just got stronger as the day went on and despite the thinning air I felt like I was flying. I overtook two people on the hill and then another seven on the remainder of my stretch. The view at the top was stunning and I felt so lucky to be running through such a beautiful place in warm sunshine. My team clearly underestimated my performance, as I reached the checkpoint before them and just carried on running. I will look back on this as that time I outran a car across a mountain.

Happiest runner bean in the world at the top of the mountain, before taking on the first leg of the descent

Our team also decided to run the last leg together, rather than leave it to one team member. It was so nice to finish the whole thing as a team and we recorded an average of 4:46 minutes per km over that final 5km – not bad for a bunch who’d been running up and down a mountain for six hours.

I also loved supporting my team from the car, passing the baton between team members (felt like a proper relay!), the curious mountain goats, the surprisingly friendly military at the border who smiled and waved at us from their tanks while gripping submachine guns, and our crew driver Ralf, who handled the 4×4 like a boss while playing bangra trance, and was partial to a fizzy cola bottle.

What was the worst bit? 

The end, and not just because I was sad it was over. The final 200m were across a sandy beach, which was a cruel way to treat legs who’d collectively covered 72km and 1000m of ascent.

Also had a emotional time during a long gradual climb in my second stretch, where I had to give my legs a real talking to.

At the end of said emotional climb. Need to stop swinging my arms across my body like that.

What’s the medal like? 

Pretty good! We also got a Salomon running technical t-shirt, and a commemorative mug. I forgot my mug. For someone who collects mugs, this is beyond heartbreaking. If any Wadi Bih competitors are reading this and have a spare, please may I have it? Please?

Soph’s Striders sporting our medals!

Would you do it again? 

Yes. Tomorrow. Every weekend. I propose putting teams together and heading over for the 2015 run, camping on the beach and living the mountain running dream. Let me know if you’re interested – I’m serious!

You can see more photos of the run in my previous Wadi Bih post!