The Dubai marathon, in its twelfth year, is one of the flattest marathons in the world attracting many elite runners and offers the winner $250,000 with a $1m bonus for breaking the world record. The event takes place at the end of January when temperatures average 20 degrees Celsius during the day. The race starts and finishes at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in the city centre. The simple out and back route takes runners up to the coast followed by a 23km stretch along the beach road and then back to the tower.
Not one of the most exciting routes in the world, but with the only inclines being the speed bumps on the beach road, it’s a good one for a fast time.
Having trained for the marathon in the cold conditions of Newcastle, and never having run more than 13 miles in the heat of Dubai, I decided to pace myself at 8 minute miles which would give me a decent finishing time of 3h 30mins.
The race started at 7am just after sunrise with a field of around 2000 runners mostly consisting of Brits, Americans and South Africans. There were also 10,000 runners taking part in the 10k race which began 15 minutes after the marathon.
Waiting for the start as the sun rises
I started well, running 8min miles, not being bothered by the number of runners overtaking me. I decided to keep going at this pace for the first half of the race and kick on a bit if I still felt fresh at the turn-around. There weren’t too many people cheering us on for the first 10km but once we got to the coast and hit the beach road, the support started to grow. There were lots of people handing out fruit and chocolate, and there were water and isotonic drink stations every 5km so hydration was never a problem.
I had run 10 miles and was nearing the 14 mile turn-around point when I saw the elite runners flying past us in the other direction. Seeing their pace up close like that was absolutely mind-blowing. After the turn-around, as the temperature started rising, the heat and the monotony of the dead straight road was really getting me to me. I could see the Burj Khalifa in the distance and it wasn’t getting any closer! However, the support really spurred me on and once we reached the 34km mark and headed back into the city centre, I felt a lot better knowing I was on the home stretch. The crowd started to dwindle on the way back and I started passing a lot of the runners who had overtaken me early in the race.
After 23 miles I was dripping in sweat and my thighs were feeling really sore. I just kept thinking to myself, ‘one foot in front of the other, that’s all it is’. Finally with a mile to go, we entered the Burj Khalifa complex and approached the finish line. I could see my dad waiting with his camera a few yards before the finish and managed to give him a huge smile despite the pain I was in.
Just before the finish
I crossed the line in 3h 29mins, bang on target, feeling a huge sense of relief. Collecting my goody bag and medal, I collapsed to the ground and just lay there for a while before having my picture taken in front of the Burj Khalifa.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about the marathon. While it does start and finish at an iconic location, the course itself is very boring. The 13 mile stretch along the straight, flat beach road with no real scenery to keep your mind off the monotony is quite demoralizing. Still, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run a marathon in my hometown and I’d like to run it once more to see how much I can improve on my time.