Coming back to the desert after my UK running sabbatical has been somewhat of a dusty affair.
It’s now that time of the year, between winter and summer (yes, there are officially only two seasons in the desert), when it’s particularly sandy. And Dusty Doha is certainly living up to its nickname.
Luckily I missed the ‘worst sandstorm to hit Doha in 30 years’ as I was obliviously running in the UK, but I’ve not missed all the action with a shamal showing up during my first week back.
Like the fool that I am, I went out training. Running in a sandstorm is akin to running in ice and snow – you know you shouldn’t but you can’t face a treadmill session and decide to risk it for the sake of training.
To be fair it was dark when I set out running (it’s getting hot in the desert and early starts are now a must), and I didn’t realise quite how bad it was. Yes, I couldn’t see the towers of West Bay, some 4km away, and the flags of the embassies which surround our home were flapping briskly in the wind, but not being fully awake, I didn’t realise quite how sandy it was until I was 3km into my run. Turning a corner and swallowing a mouthful of dust reminded me that I’d forgotten to bring a buff along.
My run was okay, but, well, on reflection probably not worth the free exfoliating facial, sticky contact lenses and sand-filled ear canals.
A week or so later and another shamal was forecast right as my training plan showed I needed to clock a 40km LSD. There was no way I was tackling that distance on a treadmill so it was time to activate the Dust Avoidance Scheme (DAS).
The DAS involves:
1. Covering your mouth – a surgical mask or ideally a construction mask is best.
2. Covering your eyes – clear wrap-around cycling glasses do the job at night. Wearing a cap helps to stop sand filtering in over the top.
3. Staying close to home – sand storms roll in very quickly. Never be more than 2km as the crow flies from sanctuary to ensure you can take shelter from the worst of it and avoid trails since they are going to be dusty.
4. Hydrating more – the wind can be very drying which means dehydration is a great risk as you don’t realise how shrivelled up you’re getting.
Thankfully, the sand storm was no where near as bad as predicted and my 40km was ticked off the list.