Part of that is because we are all in this together, and the other part is that if you really want to get to know someone, the best thing you can do is go out for a run with them. One of the reasons I love running with people is the conversation, it always just seems to flow so well within the rhythm of a run.
Over the last few months I've gotten to "know" a lot of people in the virtual running community, and I can say for sure that it's part of why my training has gone so well. It's just great to be able to share my running with others, not to mention our successes.
A few weeks before I headed to Dubai, I contacted both of the local running clubs to ask for tips on some places to run. Days later I received an e-mail from a guy named Marek, who is the chairman for the Dubai Creek Runners club. Here was his reply:
You are most welcome to join any or all of our 4 weekly runs -- all info on the website. We do an easy jog on Sunday evening along the beach, a speed workout on a track on Monday evening, longer intervals in a park on Wednesday evening and our long run on Friday morning.
Also there is a reasonably nice park nearby to your hotel (Barsha Park) with a 1.5 km running track -- that is also where we do our Wednesday session.
The group holds a low-key run on Sunday evenings and I had hoped to make it to that one, even though I had run five miles in the morning. But since that was the first non-jetlag day of the trip, I started exploring and finished the day with over 35,000 steps on my Fitbit! When I got back to the hotel around 5 p.m. I ended up dozing off and missing the run. Darn.
So fast forward to Wednesday, where the group was meeting at Al Barsha Park (scroll down on the blog to read more about that) for interval workouts. Given I had done some 400 meter repeats the night before, I didn't know if I would be into more intervals, but I figured I could meet people and cheer them on as I ran a few laps around the 1,500-meter loop.
I was looking forward to running with the group in the park, too. While much of the downtown area has trees and flowers, the outlying areas (Al Barsha, in the best way of explaining it, is a "neighborhood" in the city...like Wrigleyville in Chicago) are buildings, roads...and desert. If something wasn't built on a plot of land, it was just a scrubbed area of sand. Now, some of these scrubbed areas of land are worth millions of dollars, but they are desolate nonetheless.
The park was a true oasis in the neighborhood, with a large pond in the middle, lots of green grass, trees and flowers. A very beautiful place and one I had really enjoyed using while I was there. The park is very, very busy in the evenings, and is a real representation of the international flavor of the neighborhood it serves.
I was a little concerned Wednesday afternoon as no info had been put up on the club's website or Facebook page, but at a little after 6 p.m. I caught a cab out to the park for the 6:30 show time. When I got there I saw a couple of runner-looking people, but kind of stayed by myself for a minute.
Eventually I gathered the courage to go up a strike up a conversation with the two people, one was a guy from the UK whose name I didn't get, and the other was a woman named Ruba, who was very nice and full of information.
But 6:30 came and went and no one else showed up! Ruba explained that many in the club (including her) were running a half marathon on Friday morning -- Friday and Saturday is the weekend in Dubai -- so maybe they cancelled it but didn't let anyone know.
I was very disappointed, and the UK guy decided to go off and do his own thing. That left Ruba and I and she suggested we make it worth the trip over and run a few laps. I was definitely OK with that, so we headed off down the path.
It didn't take long for the conversation to really start flowing. Ruba, who is Palestinian, has lived in Dubai since 2001, and said when she moved there she had planned to stay only a couple of years before moving back to the UK. What also came out later in the conversation is that she and Marek got married on Dec. 20! They have been together for four years and had met in the club. Ruba said to her knowledge they are the fourth couple to meet in the club and get married. I wished I had been able to meet Marek, but he was in Germany on business.
We talked a lot about running and our goals. She has run a marathon before and was hoping to run the Rome Marathon this year. I told her about running the Indy Mini and that I had run the Chicago Marathon in the past, and we swapped stories of some of the international events we have run or know of people who have run them.
I also mentioned my goal of trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon and she said Marek has run it three times and it was his favorite marathon. All along we started finding a rhythm with our running and the last two laps were run at a really quick pace. In the end Ruba said we ran 4.6 K in about 28 minutes, that converts to about 2.85 miles, so we were running under a 10-minute pace. The funny thing was, the pace felt really, really easy, further proof that you almost always run better with a person to run with.
Overall, it was an incredible experience to run here. While I only got to run at the park, it was a beautiful place to log some miles, and is a place that if I lived there I would have no problem running lots and lots of laps around!
It was also great to have the opportunity to meet with other runner(s) and share our love for the sport so far from home. The running community is so amazing, that I could go 7,000 miles from home and be welcomed warmly to their little world. It's really more proof that running is such an amazing, inspiring sport that brings so many people together. I hope as the year goes on I get the chance to meet even more great people in some of my travels!