Having something positive to focus on helps me survive in a drastically different culture and to cope with life in Oman so, I started preparing for the 10K event at the third Muscat Marathon as soon as I arrived in October 2013.
After work on Thursday I headed straight to Muscat with a colleague who gave me a short tour of the city and the route I would have to run before dropping me off at my hotel. After checking in I walked to the Qurum Beach Resort to pick up my race kit which included a nice bag and t-shirt. Then, I went for a light meal before taking a taxi back to my room so that I could be well rested for the race.
On race day I woke up early after tossing and turning in an unfamiliar bed most of the night. I got ready and tried to be as quiet as possible so that I wouldn’t wake Amy, my friend who was acting as my coach and photographer for the day. Then, I went to the hotel lobby to drink some tea and relax. By the time Amy and I left at about 6:45 to flag down a taxi the temperature seemed cool with a gentle breeze but this scenario didn’t last long.
Route – The 10K race began and finished, with the other two events (half and full marathon), in the front (maybe it was the back), of the Qurum Beach Resort in Al-Shatti district of Muscat. The runners left the Qurum Beach and headed east towards Beach Road to the roundabout, just before the hill that leads to the Crowne Plaza hotel, turned and ran back along the same road before turning left onto another street. From here we made our way to Qurum Park, and ran a loop through the park and then continued back the same road to the Qurum Beach Resort. Most of the route was marked with a blue line painted on the road so, it was impossible to get lost. There were many friendly volunteers directing runners, handing out water and encouraging participants, especially the slow runners like me.
Pre-race goal – To run 10K without collapsing, taking walking breaks as needed. Although time was not my focus I still hoped to finish in about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Race – Just before the race started at 8:30 I was already feeling warm, sweaty and desperately looking for a shady spot to escape the morning sun which was out in full force. My training sessions have generally taken place in the early morning hours long before the unbearable sun shines its evil heat rays down on the earthlings below or just before she bids us farewell in the evening. Now, here I was on race day totally unprepared for a scorching, hot day.
I found a place near the back of the pack and waited for the countdown. Soon I was amongst a group of runners dashing down Beach Road, trying to listen to my body, water dripping from my forehead and on the verge of a heart attack. I slowed to a gentle jog and a few younger runners scooted by and I took my place behind some young ladies and a couple of boys. I decided this would be my running group for the next hour or so. Their pace was not too fast and I remained behind them until we entered Qurum Park. I stopped for a short water break and walked up a small hill. My group was putting some distance between us. I stumbled along and eventually caught up again as we ran through the park.
At some point before leaving the park I left my group because I found a new guy to run with. Actually, I didn’t let him know that I was following him. When he slowed to a walk so did I. This continued for about a kilometer until I spotted a race marshal directing the runners ahead of us to turn towards the last leg of the race. We were almost finished and this kid decided to walk. I was totally annoyed and I told him he should continue running. By now, I suspected this poor guy felt like he was being stocked by some crazy lady and he attempted to distance himself from me. I stayed on his heels and with about 50 meters to the end I sprinted as fast as physically possible and passed him.
I am not quite sure what possessed me to practically create a scene at the finish line by sprinting like a fool so that I could overtake this guy – perhaps a bit too competitive. My friend Amy was waiting and snapping photos. The volunteer gave me my finisher’s medal and I was thankful that this race was over. Then, I grabbed some water and walked around the garden to cool down. After I found a place to sit and the young man who I stormed by at the finish came over to congratulate me on my strong finish. We chatted for a few minutes as he waited for his friends to complete the race. Then we had a hefty breakfast together before posing for a photo with our medals.
Result – According to my Garmin my time was 1:07:54. Actually, I was just happy to make it back to the starting point without collapsing that I forgot to look at the timer as I crossed the finish. This morning I checked the official results online and my chip time was 1:06:46 compared to 1:07:15 for gun time. I ranked 109/208 overall and 28/66 for ladies.
Overall, I am pleased with the results and looking forward to improving this time in my summer races. Lastly, the Muscat Road Runners, race marshals and all the volunteers did a fantastic job hosting the third Muscat Marathon event. It was an enjoyable weekend that will remain a fond memory of my time in Oman.