Race: IgniteDXB Hatta Hills Running Festival 2017
Location: Hatta, starting from the JA Hatta Fort Hotel
Date: Friday March 10, 2017
Distances: 2.5k, 5k, 10k and half marathon
Personal rating: 9/10
I have been enjoying this running season in the UAE, as I am not training for a full spring marathon, which means my weekends are free for ‘short’ distance races (no waking up at 3am on Friday mornings! Not that I mind though). I signed up to run the 10k distance with no expectations really. The sole intention was to challenge myself with some hills and to explore a (distant) part of Dubai that I rarely go. I would have loved to stay in Hatta the night before (something I usually do for almost all races outside Dubai), but the hotel hosting the race (JA Hatta Fort Hotel) was fully booked a month ahead of the race.
The race was on a Friday morning (Ironically at 3am) as I planned to meet a friend and go together, we left Dubai at around 4:15am and made our way to the mountains. The journey took almost 2 hours and we made it there soon after bib collection was opened. There was a good turn-out for all the distances, and there were noticeably more club runners than some of the races that are closer to home in Dubai (eg. in the IgniteDXB’s other race, the night run at Meydan, there were a handful of runners from Dubai’s running clubs). One reason to that could be that several runners are training for races in not so flat parts of the world, another could be the challenge, as Dubai’s flat courses can be dull and repetitive to some.
The race should have started at 7am (for the HM), with the 10k race starting a few minutes later. The roads were not closed in time so there was a slight delay and the first batch (women’s half marathon) set out at 7:20am, followed closely by the men’s HM and then the same order for the 10k women and men’s races.
The 10k route was basically a 5k run up to the Hatta Dam and back, it was an interesting challenge with a total elevation gain of 115 meters. The conditions were hot and dry, which made me genuinely glad I did not sign up to do the half marathon (Kudos to the brave souls who did it. The anguish on their faces at the finish line said it all really). The only area of improvement I have about the race is that there should have been a marshal on top of the dam, as some runners went left on the top of the dam to the end and back, before hitting the trail and then u-turning to run back to the finish line. I spoke to some runners about this at the race and was told that last year’s route had the runners go til the end of the dam’s bridge/road and back. This resulted in about 360 extra meters (according to my Garmin at least), which probably translates into almost 2 additional minutes.
The second half of the race was straightforward, just maintain the pace. Made it home with a time of 48:55 minutes. The medal was quite nice, and the race village was lovely. I stuck around for about an hour or so to take pictures and catch-up with some friends who ran the race, but missed the awards ceremony as I had to make my way back to Dubai with my friend (She finished in about 1 hour 12 minutes, which is a good time considering she is a casual runner who never ran hills before, at least not in the UAE). Well dome to everyone who raced in Hatta, it was a very challenging, but rewarding day out there! Till next year…
Race data from my Garmin for the numbers geeks provided below. You can notice the drop in pace when going up the Hatta dam!
Tips and notes to self for next year:
– Book a hotel room ahead of time and get to truly discover Hatta.
– Check out the kayak tours around the lake.
– Double check the route map! Ask for directions if you are lost.
Shameless plug: Credits to Omography
Next challenge: Another not so flat race, but not as far as Hatta; The Dubai Autodrome 10k.