So I’m on holiday in Abu Dhabi, getting some serious winter sun and warmth with Mrs C and recovering by the pool after a tiring business trip to Manila, catching up on some needed zzzzzzzz time after an exhausting journey to rendezvous with Alison at Dubai airport
Quick summary of previous day – in local timezone, worked til 2am Saturday morning, went out for a farewell drink straight from the office, drank a bucket-load of beer – yes they sell bottles of beer in buckets! – arrived back at hotel at 5am courtesy of Victor – younger brother of Michael Schumacher allegedly though he was surprisingly uninformed of his current comatose status! – after essential pee-stop en-route (“you want Filipino-style?” I shuddered at the prospect of what that might entail but turned out to be just stopping on the highway and letting fly at the side of the road – phew! European style is ok!) – quick Facetime with Mrs C to arrange last minute rendezvous details, shower, then straight to car looking enviously at un-slept in bed! Airport – 9 hour flight (I confess I did nod off and had 40 winks), then a 7 hour wait at Dubai airport for the memsahibs arrival, lounging on a squishy sofa at Costa Coffee, buying just enough that they didn’t throw me out – then an hours drive to the hotel to arrive about midnight Saturday local time – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz – thats what I mean by tiring!
So there I am, relaxing, and looking up ‘things to do’ and I see that there is a 10k race around the nearly new Abu Dhabi Formula 1 circuit at Yas Island – actually ‘over the road’ from our hotel. Whats a boy to do? While not an F1 fan, its an ‘event’, so of course I sign up, pay my £16 registration fee online, and wait til Friday night to come around. Now of course I thought that a few days of sun and snooze would bring me to perfect running condition – how wrong that was to prove! A bout of stomach upset brought on by foolishly eating a few prawns from a buffet that had obviously been ‘warming’ for longer than they should, led on to severe constipation and further pain – this needed a trip to the pharmacy and the strongest stuff they had – “8 to 12 hours” they said – it took 15 for phase 1 to be complete at about 3am on Friday morning, race day! A further dose led to phase 2 being completed
about 2 hours before the race, which was at 6.30pm so as to avoid the heat of the day (25 – 29c since you ask!). Couldn’t eat a thing due to nausea so I resorted to a solitary Mars Bar to give me some energy (funny how you can always eat chocolate even when feeling ill!). I also woke with a seriously sore throat which also required medication – great build up! Still, a race is a race, and we Joggers don’t give up just ‘cos we don’t feel 100%. So off I set to “just pop over the road, jog the race and pop back in time for dinner”. Hmmmmm. The joining details were a bit lacking in where to actually present myself, but as I could see the track from the hotel I assumed this would be evident once you set off. So away I jogged, using this as my warm
up. After a mile I was starting to get a bit worried, no obvious way in and no obvious signs or stream of people to join. hmmmmmm. Then there it was, an entrance, and two guards waving traffic in. They were bemused to see me on foot – I now realise that NOONE walks out there – asking them where to go I got “First right, second left, over the roundabout and keep going”…..How long? After all I was IN the circuit now! Smiling they said “20 minutes…..” Oh shit, off I trotted again. Being passed by Porsches and other rather high class driving machines I wondered how out of my depth I may be. A feeling heightened when as I finally approached signs of people gathering, I also saw a gang of tall, lithe African runners warming up. oh shit, had I joined a professional race by accident? I felt like Alf Tupper (you youngsters can google him!). However once I got to the main stand I recognised the normal pre-race stuff, normal looking runner-y people like me, and I collected my number. Very organised with pins provided in the envelope! But all with a twist, was that a local with a hawk on his arm?
Yes indeed, it was! Now worried about dehydration I managed to down half a litre of water, only to feel my bladder filling too quickly and have to go and lose much of it. But finally I’m at the start, still fretting about energy, hydration, humidity (100% and still 22c – not used to running in that sort of heat for a while even though its classified as ‘cold’ for the locals!). But I look around and I’m inside a major F1 racetrack, Grandstands (empty!) towering around, and I smile. This was an inaugural event and it felt it too. “Ladies and gentlemen please respect the Marshalls – you will recognise them as they are wearing yellow bibs, with the word MARSHALL written on them…..” to general tittering amongst the very cosmopolitan field! Unlike the local Fun Runs, Grand Prixs, etc etc this had cameras on overhead gantrys zooming around. We had to wait til the United Arab Emirates National Anthem had been played (noone sang – IF there were words!) and some Arabic speech made, then finally – we were off.
Its a weird experience running around an empty race track. Much narrower and twistier than I ever thought, and at 5.5k all around much shorter too. So it was two-ish laps of the track. Not quite the fresh air of West Sussex either – while warm, high tech diesel generators were humming to drive the floodlights, meaning the undeniable whiff of fumes hung across the track. Hang on, we’re going downhill……….I knew what that meant – expecting a totally flat track I hadn’t factored in any climbing – quite a short, steep bit too! Hey ho, at least it ain’t Truleigh. But sure enough my lack of food intake meant that I lacked some energy – but that didn’t matter – I passed lots of
people walking after just 1k so I knew I wasn’t going to be last – just keep going! I kept mentally checking my stomach – was that laxative going to have disastrous consequences as I ‘powered’ down the straight with the high Grandstands on either side? Or would it manifest itself as I rounded the Marina with just a few HUGE ‘motor-yachts’ moored where on race day Bernie Ecclestone would sail in? Thankfully, I made it in one piece – cheeky twisty
uphill to the finish, and done! No promised medal, the bastards! I got a lovely UAE flag to wave, a teeshirt with Sheik Zayeds face plastered all over it, and a similarly tasteful cap……crikey even the 7 Stiles has a medal now!!
I set off on the long, solitary journey back to the hotel (yes, I really WAS the only person walking!) but was spared as a Belgian runner from Bruges stopped and gave me a lift – what a nice man! Mrs C was happy to see me as it had all taken much longer than my promised ‘just popping out back in an hour’ promise and was eating the bedclothes when I got back to the room!
Time – after all my woes just finishing was enough I felt, but was happy enough with an unspectacular 55:33. With about 1300
entrants it was a sizeable race, but one third of that number simply didn’t turn up to start – that shocked me! Great experience and if I’m out there again I’ll happily do more.