Depending on which side of the fence you sit, road-running is often seen as slightly tame or even relaxing. You can hit the pavements, switch off, tune into your own thoughts and trot on with just a casual eye on your surroundings.
For many a trail runner this is just plain boring. They crave the excitement of challenging topography, the claggy feeling of heavy shoes churning through the plough, tip-toeing through boulder fields, slip sliding down steep rugged inclines… Well, here in Qatar we recreate some of these excitements on road.
As a country in flux, rapidly attempting to meet the needs of a growing economy and the demands of hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022, the place is quite literally a building site. There’s construction at every turn as the country strives to develop a massive infrastructure to support the high rise towers, offices, accommodation, shopping malls, that are springing up on what was once virgin desert. In many cases it’s a horse and cart scenario as to deciding which comes first.
Road-works simply appear overnight, pavements disappear, raised ironwork is a par for the course, knee-height signage catches out the unwary pedestrian, which all makes road-running that bit more exciting. Switch off to what’s going on around you and you’ll fall straight down a hole.
In a country where door-to-door driving is sometimes a must, there are no directives to build temporary walkways when road-works put pavements out of bounds. For the runner, it’s a head on traffic moment.
Alternatively, you can steeple-chase through the road-works, by dropping down off-road through the piles of gravel, shimmying around rubble, before scrabbling back up and clambering out over the concrete barriers erected to stop 4X4s short-cutting through the works. Cones just wouldn’t cut it in Qatar where it’s common practice to drive over whatever gets in the vehicle’s path.
And so despite being one the flattest countries on the planet and despite being forced by heat onto the road for much of the year, running in Qatar can involve as much skill as the most technical of trails.