Ever shifting sands

December and January are about the only months of the year in which us northern-hemisphere-desert-dwellers have one up on our European based counterparts. While they are battling with snow and slip sliding on ice, we are enjoying balmy day time temperatures below 20C.

It’s the only time of the year when a desert runner can safely venture out at midday without risk of heat exhaustion and without pinpoint knowledge of the nearest oasis. It’s the only time of the year when it’s safe to venture out into the desert without a support vehicle tracking your every move. And it’s the only time of the year when it’s difficult to resist the temptation to build mileage too quickly.

Come mid-March it’s all too easy to skip training by laying in bed an extra hour and missing the opportunity to get some miles in before the sun gets too hot, or just to call it quits too soon when dehydration starts to nag.

Heading across the desert to Film City...note this 'oasis' was built recently for the filming of Black Gold. Thanks to Talib for the photo.

Heading across the desert to Film City…note this ‘oasis’ was built recently for the filming of Black Gold. Thanks to Talib for the photo.

Currently, therefore, I’m clocking up some miles and enjoying exploring a little further. A couple of Friday’s ago witnessed a group of 20 odd hit the dustbowl of Zekreet, one of our favourite haunts. This was a first venture of the current running season into the centre of the peninsula. This is not a place to caught in the heat of summer since it doesn’t garner much passing traffic and you risk not getting found should you run short of water.

The run started at 6.30am at first light (yes, old habits die hard) in a less than pleasant 13C – us heat adapted folks find anything less than 22C leaves us reaching for more layers – with a trot out of the fishing village and up the coast.

Heading inland when we spotted the telephone poles, we kept moving forwards for 10km before picking up the track leading across the cattle bridge, through the new fence, into the nature reserve.

Okay, so the cattle bridge isn’t to keep cows anywhere, it’s to keep oryx (Qatar’s native deer-like animal) in. I missed catching sight of any of these elusive creatures but the back group spotted two. We then followed the track through much deeper sand than I remember in this area up towards Film City. A quick pit-stop – it was too cold to hang around – and we toddled back.

All in all a great run, no fallers, no overheating and no one getting lost. The only challenge was the deeper sand; a consequence of the ever changing winds of the desert. The sand will no doubt be back on the coast next year.

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