So you just crossed the finish line at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon’s 3k or 10k race yesterday morning and you’re buzzing, you feel awesome, you feel invincible, you want to do more races and challenge yourself to improve your pace and to cover longer distances in less time. You want to make it more than just this bank-sponsored annual dash around the city’s roads. Where do you start? I hope I can provide some encouragement, ideas and tips here.
Small note: I’ve also written earlier this month about how to start with running in general (Link: https://omarabuomar.com/2014/01/05/how-can-i-get-into-running-my-personal-take/). The post below aims to encourage people who ran yesterday to keep going and not limit running to be an activity reserved for the last Friday of every January in Dubai :). This can also work for any people anywhere who want to take up running more often
Our minds play tricks on us sometimes. Did you think before or during the race that you won’t be able to finish it only for your body to defy it and prove to you that you can actually push yourself further than you thought you could? Getting over your anxiety and your self-doubt is a crucial and enjoyable part of running.
Running/jogging the distance of 10 kilometers is not as daunting as it sounds or seems, and you probably realized that yourself. 10 kilometers is not actually that long of a distance. To put things in perspective, in Dubai, the distance from Burj Al Arab to let’s say the well-known Reem Al Bawadi café on the beach road is less than 7 kilometers. The distance from the Greens/Tecom area to Mall of the Emirates is around the 5 kilometer mark. In other words, when the weather permits you could actually jog to a nearby mall to ‘run’ a quick errand or get something done without even sweating much.
Once you’ve come over your doubts, fears and you get that urge to prove yourself and your mind wrong, it becomes easier to focus on running itself.
How do you measure your performance? How do you keep track of your gradual progress into the running black hole? You can start off with simply using landmarks, a stopwatch or even your phone. If you’re running on pavements outside and focusing on distance, use things like traffic lights, shops, signs on the roads or buildings as landmarks. Set a target to let’s say: I will not stop jogging/running until I reach that intersection. Then you could have a small recovery walk and then set another milestone/target to push towards without stopping or walking and so on.
Another way of measuring things is to focus on time rather than distances, start off with a plan to keep on running for let’s say at least 5 minutes. It may seem little, but if you’re just starting off with running then it may be challenging towards the end. Recover for a minute or two then run again nonstop for 5 minutes and so on.
With every run, try to increase the distance or the time that you run for before you feel you have to stop or walk. With time. you will be covering longer distance or for longer time periods without feeling tired or that you are running out of breath.
Whether you are focusing on time or distance, always remember that you are working on building endurance, not improving your pace. Pace will improve on its own gradually and then you will be able to gauge how you are doing once you build some mileage and endurance in your legs.
Another highly recommended way of tracking your progress is to download a running tracking app on your phone such as Nike Plus (Started using this three or so years ago and it’s been very helpful). There are also other similar other apps which you could try as well (eg. Runtastic). What these apps do is simply use the GPS to track the distance you have covered against the time that you take to cover the distance. The Nike Plus app allows you to add friends, initiate challenges with them, get “cheers” from your friends online and even see how you are doing in comparison to your friends. At the moment I use a combination of the mobile app (to see my progress) and the Nike Sports Watch, which can be synced easily with the Nike Plus servers to update your stats and data (Just for the record, this is not an endorsement of Nike. The app/network have their limitations, but I won’t go into that at the moment). More professional runners use Garmin or Polar watches, which are super awesome and worth checking out as well.
Sign up to races!
The best website for racing and sports activities at the moment in Dubai is PremierOnline.com (Formerly known as PremierMarathon.com). You can sign up easily and quickly to upcoming races and get the relevant information before you sign up. Highly recommended. There are several races in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that happen on recurring basis, such as the Abras, Dubai Desert Runs, Asics Sports Series and the Zayed Sports City runs (In AD). In addition to that, there are the ‘bigger’ annual races such as the Abu Dhabi Striders Yas Island 10k and half marathon races, the RAK half marathon etc.
The races are not limited to the UAE, you could also sign up to runs around the region (Recently there were a couple of races in Doha, and there is the Muscat marathon next weekend). Running in other cities and abroad is definitely a very rewarding experience, since you get to see other places, run there and experience different races and courses.
Join a running club:
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, there are several running clubs and communities in the UAE which cater to different people with different objectives and abilities. The main running clubs in Dubai are the Dubai Creek Striders, the Abras AC and the Dubai Desert Road Runners (Abu Dhabi has the AD Creek Striders). Getting into these clubs is very easy, simply check out their websites, get in touch with them to find out more about the (very affordable) registration fees and join their next session. It could take you a couple of times to get used to some of the terminology used and the nature of the runs that each clubs goes on (Each session is different with different objectives).
In addition to the running clubs, some of the sports companies sponsor free run sessions (Adidas, Reebok and Nike) which could be another alternative (I personally prefer the running clubs, but that’s a personal choice). You could be part of two or even all three clubs mentioned earlier if you want to. No grudges would be held against any one ;).
Travel to run!
If you are a fellow so-called expat, when you are planning your next vacation back home, see if there are any races happening in or close to your hometown and try to make it then! Imagine running in your own city and perhaps even seeing parts of it that you have never seen before. That’s the beauty of running!
You could also choose to travel elsewhere for a long weekend getaway that includes a race! There are many websites which list international marathons and races, and have reviews by people who actually went on these runs. Similar to Dubai, international runs usually also have shorter distance races such as 10ks and half marathons.
We run for different reasons, some run for a living, some run to stay fit and/or lose weight, some run to prove themselves wrong (Me!), some do it to relieve stress and anxiety (Also me!). Whatever your reason to run is, keep doing it! Encourage your friends to run, cycle or swim. All three activities can be similarly rewarding, exciting and interesting.