How I almost missed the Dubai Marathon

The start was a bit of a disaster to be honest. My alarm went off at 5am and I was instantly awake. I popped out of bed and went about making myself some jam toast before climbing in to my laid out kit. So far, so good. I’d arranged with Chloe that she’d flag a cab at 6am, swing it past my apartment and then on to the race start down at Umm Suqeim for the 6:30 cut off for pens. Simple!

RACE KIT: RDC race vest, Nike capris, Shock Absorber bra, TomTom runner watch, Balega socks, iPod shuffle and Yurbuds headphones, 5 x Gu gels, Oakley sunglasses and Nike Lunarglide 5.

Not so simple if you can’t pick up a cab until 6:35. Umm Suqiem is a way across town and so when we finally got in to a cab we were worried we may not even make the race start. Three months of training and over £1000 raised for the Alzheimer’s Society and we’d miss the start because we couldn’t flag a cab. The thought was mortifying.

The cab we did eventually get pulled up at the race village at 6:52. Race starts at 7. Shit shit shit. We started sprinting through the race village, dodging people warming up and milling about, only to be met with a HUGE backlog of people in the pens. They’d already started funnelling the 10k participants behind the marathon ones, and the 3k participants behind the 10k ones – there was no way we’d be able to get through that crowd in the 3 minutes we had left before the start. DOOM.

All of a sudden, an elderly couple spotted our baby blue marathon race numbers and started shouting “MARATON MARATON!” and started pointing to a gap underneath a nearby fence and pushing us towards it. We army rolled in the sand under the fence and could see the marathon start way down the road. We started sprinting again down the road as the start countdown sounded across the race village, rolled under a bush, hopped two barriers, evaded one security guard and slipped in to the throng of people rolling through the start gate. We moved with the crowd and, five seconds later, our marathon had started. At least we didn’t have time to get nervous in pens…

The first 5k or so was spent nervously laughing with relief that we’d made it and repeating “MARATON MARATON”. I had slipped a picture of my late Nana on to the inside of my race bib and we were convinced she had sent this couple to deliver us safely to the start.

I have a tendency to babble. To avoid this post turning to a dissertation on my marathon, I am going to use lists.

Some interesting things we saw on our run…

  • A couple running in inflatable plastic sumo suits topped off with beanie hats – how they didn’t boil alive I’ll never know.
  • A troop of half a dozen French pompiers transporting their disabled lady friend on a wheelchair-come-cart contraption – two at a time would push and the other four would run along side, and they’d swap in and out of pushing. They were singing and chanting the whole way and left us in their dust at around 15k.
  • A man called the Social Runner, hopping between runners and interviewing them about the marathon. Hope I can find the video!
  • The portaloo at 10k was ABSOLUTELY COVERED in orange Gatorade and shit. It was like a portaloo apocalypse. I sincerely hope whoever was in this state 10k deep in to a marathon dropped out and visited the nearest hospital.
  • We counted 15 mosques in the first 15k on our time-passing game #mosquewatch (after 15k we turned back and repeated the same road, so #mosquewatch became redundant).
  • Three completely barefoot runners. All walking and wincing in pain (no further comment).
  • The Burj al Arab, Wild Wadi waterpark, the Union Flag, the Downtown skyline shimmering in the distance and the Royal Beaches.
  • Seeing the elite men coming through the half way point in 1:01. Wowweeeee.
  • A woman running ON HER TIPTOES. As in fore foot striking and then not putting her heels down. Her calf muscles were wider than her thighs and that is not hyperbole.

 The highs…

  • Feeling on top of the world for the first 10km. Quite cool, bit of shade, beautiful clear blue skies.
  • Finishing in 4:57 – the goal had been sub-5.
  • That time when there was a little cloud at 39km. 30 seconds of heaven.
  • Zero stomach issues whatsoever and minimal fantasies about cans of coke.
  • Dubai Creek Striders aid stations: beautiful orange slices at 20km and an ice bucket full of mini water bottles at 27.5km…you dreams.
  • Picking up the pace and overtaking people in the last km. Real life warrior princess hardcore shit.
  • The very heavy medal the size of the palm of my hand. Oh yes.
  • Catching glimpses of the sea between buildings. Beautiful.
  • Our lovely pal Charlotte greeting us at the finish line with cans of coke, triple pack Bounty bars and salt and vinegar crisps, then sitting on the grass with us for two hours while we recovered and summoned the strength to get up. Hero.

The lows…

  • Feeling dead legged and tired at 16km. Too early on for that nonsense and it only got worse.
  • The hellish lack of shade from 8:30am onwards. Not.a.speck.
  • Gu gels in general, but especially the orange mandarin one. Nasty.
  • The aid station at mile 20 running out of water. Why is the world so cruel?
  • The chafe I have on my armpit, boobs and butt. I’ve never had chafe before but I’m attributing it to the fact I threw water on myself every 2.5km.
  • The route. 15km to 26km was one way down a very straight road…a whole half marathon on one endless road. Mentally exhausting.
  • Feeling very hot as it got closer to midday. Verryyyyyy hot.
  • It generally being a marathon and thus really bloody hard work.

Thoughts while I ran:

  • “Anyone who says they enjoy marathons is a liar.”
  • “I have to do this all over again in 10 weeks in London. Maybe I should defer*.”
  • “This was a terrible idea.”
  • “Thank god I am not on my own and have managed to drag Chloe down with me.”
  • “U-Turn by Usher is a great running song. Well done me.”
  • “This is just as bad as I remembered!”
  • “My feet are on FIRE.”
  • “Water is from heaven.”
  • “I really really want to sit down.”

*Note: I am not going to

So, that’s my marathon in a nutshell.

The route was absolutely terrible – Dubai’s penchant for world records (it’s the world’s richest marathon, don’t you know) means that they sacrificed the enjoyment of the every day runners for the speed of the elites – they’re holding our for a new world record on Dubai turf. It was dire.

The organisation was great though – aid stations with a minimum of water every 2.5km (apart from 35km!), lots of volunteers, massages at the end (if you could be arsed to queue), plentiful Gatorade and cold sponges, heavy medical staff presence, seamless road closures (apart from that one taxi that ended up driving next to us on the final stretch…), sexy medal, proper Adidas wicking race shirt in lady sizes (not just mens XL!) and a bonus 20% off Adidas discount for all runners.

If you’re a masochist, I’d highly recommend it.