No more crazy races (maybe)!

At the start of one such crazy race. Note the determined face!

At the start of one such crazy race. Note the determined face!

As our desert ‘closed’ season comes to an end, all eyes are turned to race planning.

Where, when, how  fast, and why? Chat is of who’s going to be trying to complete what and where. I guess slogging away through the summer means we’re all reasonably fit and ready to go when the cooler temperatures finally come.

In an effort to cram as many races as you can into the desert’s four-month winter, it’s all too easy to enter any and every race going. I mean, I would never dream of doing a 5km road race in the UK, but I’ll bravely show out and sprint as fast as I can around just a 3km here.

Puffing, blowing, and cursing my way around the course, I know I’m not built for speed and I’m probably undoing all the hours of endurance training I’ve put in but it’s a consequence of the Middle East. Someone says ‘race’ and everyone does, we never think to question why we’re bothering. We’re all just excited by the prospect of stretching our legs.

Totally nuts! And so I am challenging myself to be strict about what I race and when during the 2013/14 season. All will be carefully orchestrated. If it’s not in the plan, I’m not turning out.

There’s a tradition of what I’ve nicknamed ‘flash’ races here. It’s no doubt an aside consequence of planning which is typical of the region, but races are often announced with just a few days’ notice. Massive crowds show up, lured by the crazy prize-money that’s advertised in local newspapers (yes, it’s common to win a large wad of notes for an amateur race which is all over in 15 minutes), and literally stampede the course. The start is akin to an adrenaline fueled riot – well, I’ve never been in a riot but I’m assuming that’s what it’s like – and for three minutes it’s a frenzy of surging bodies before people begin to tire and stop having covered just 600m. For the more experienced runner, who’s attempted a conservative start, it’s an absolute nightmare as their path is strewn and blocked by exhausted competitors.

The funny thing is that there’s a strict pre-medical entry requirement for most of these races. Entrants have to queue, often for some time, to have their blood pressure checked before being allowed to compete. It never fails to amaze me how quickly the arm cuff goes on and off in ‘measuring’ blood pressure.

‘Flash’ races are when I’m glad to be a woman. Culture means that the fairer sex is very rarely expected to race with men at the same time at them. This facilitates a much more orderly event.  There are fewer of us (women make up only 30 percent of Qatar’s population), we have more decorum, and simply don’t feel the need to push and shove before grinding to a halt less than a kilometer in.

So, as you are my witness, I will this year endeavour not to enter any race which is of silly length and do not assist my long distance training progress. (Let’s see how long this pledge lasts!)


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