x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Running into camaraderie

A successful and emotional 10-kilometre race under her belt, the writer promises to run the Dubai Marathon next year.

On Friday morning, I left my flat at 5.15am, which was, for me at least, absurdly early for a weekend morning. Sheikh Zayed Road was deserted, it was still dark (not to mention cold) outside and I was feeling vaguely nauseous. I forced myself to eat a banana and drink some water, while wondering why I wasn't still in bed.

Walking around the back of Dubai Mall and taking in the stillness of the Dubai Lake, the sheer emptiness of an area that teems with people during the day, and the skyline, which for the first time ever looked sleepy, it began to make sense.

An hour or so later, just before the 2012 Dubai Marathon began, the atmosphere couldn't have been more different; the sun rose, the crowd grew and so did the tension and excitement levels.

As the first of the super-fit professional runners took off at a staggeringly fast pace (19+k/ph for two hours), a spontaneous cheer rang out among the crowd and my friend and I smiled as we shuffled our way forward to begin the far less daunting 10K race.

A kilometre or two in, I began to think that this was really quite special. For me at least, running is a very solitary pastime - you battle with yourself to pick up the pace, cover the extra distance, keep ploughing on when your muscles are begging you to stop. While it affords you ample time for thinking and I find it an excellent way to clear my head, it can be quite lonely.

The other morning, though, the camaraderie among the participants pounding the pavement out towards Emirates Towers was enough to strike a chord with even the most hardened of cynics. And I'm sentimental to a fault, so it was goosebumps aplenty for runner number 9591.

Competitors were clapping and cheering each other on, grinning through gritted teeth as they passed another marker point and sharing bottles of water handed out by volunteers. People on their way to work paused to shout words of encouragement and offer the occasional chewy sweet.

At the finish line, the sense of collective achievement was huge; red-faced runners milled about clutching their medals, gulping water, taking pictures and chatting away unselfconsciously to strangers.

All of which has made me think; if the reaction is this special when running 10k, imagine the euphoria of completing a marathon. I've run a few half-marathons in the past and have always wanted to complete the full 42 kilometres. So there you go, it's in writing now - I'll let you know how I get on this time next year.