Three days ago I headed to the UAE (United Arab Emirites) to take part in the 17th annual Abu Dhabi Terry Fox Run. In spite of all the race advice I have read on the Internet, in running magazines and heard from experienced runners I went out on the town the night before the race. Consequently, I slept in and had to rush to get ready and then we couldn’t find the starting point. The hotel receptionist assured us that it was a 5 minute walk to the Corniche. Of course, he forgot to mention that the Corniche stretches several kilometers.
Finally, after a 30-minutewalk and no signs of a race on the Corniche we spotted the turn-around point. This meant that we had about a 5K walk to the registration/starting point. I already felt exhausted and wanted to forget the race. However, I came to Abu Dhabi to participate in the Terry Fox run and there had to be a way to get there without walking/running.
We had no time to wait for a taxi – we needed a lift. Hitch-hiking on a very busy street that runs along Abu Dhabi Corniche was not really an option but flagging down a car was. As I was trying to convince my friend that this was the quickest way to get to starting point I saw a car stopped on the street not far from us. I sprinted to it, opened the door and jumped in. The local lady looked shocked but luckily she spoke excellent English and understood my situation and agreed to drive us to the registration area.
She dropped us off in front of the registration area which was packed with people. I weaved my way through the crowd and eventually found the registration table. I paid my fees and the volunteer handed me a t-shirt and a ribbon. She directed me to another table where I had to fill out a form with my name and signature.
By now I noticed that the other participants were wearing their t-shirts and ribbons but there were no number bibs. I wondered how we would know our time. (Is there a magic chip in the t-shirt?) I have been training for this race for months and I was hoping to have a great time.
So, I asked a volunteer about timing. She looked at me as if I was from another planet and responded “Time is not important – every one gets a certificate at the end of the race.” At this point, I reminded myself that this race was not about winning or setting a personal best it was about having fun, celebrating a great Canadian and his contribution to cancer research, raising money to carry on his dream of finding a cure for cancer, and encouraging people to lead active and healthy lives.
It was now time to relax and enjoy the race. With thousands of participants I didn’t have to worry about being last I could run for pleasure and without stress. My friend and I walked around, took some photos, and sat on the beach before the race. We went back to the starting area for the UAE national anthem performed by the Abu Dhabi Police Band, some speeches, and the aerobics warm-up. Then the racers were asked to make their way to the starting line. I handed my camera over to my friend and promised that I would run as fast as possible so that she wouldn’t have to wait so long.
The race was well-organized with a fantastic atmosphere. There were dozens of young volunteers handing out drinks and water along the route. People were cheering the participants and encouraging everyone to do their best. There were people from all over the world taking part and watching the race. It was an amazing experience to be part of a truly international event.
Since there was no official timing I used my Garmin and timed myself. When I crossed the finish line I was surprised to see that I did the 8.5 course in 48:24 minutes.