by Sumanth Nayak
Desert Double part deux
I hadn’t originally planned to do this race but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try another Gulf marathon and I figured a two week break between races was enough to recover sufficiently compared to last year’s week long gap. Organized by the very friendly Bahrain Road Runners (a club mostly made up of locals – compared to the expat driven clubs of other Gulf countries) and going for over thirty years, it’s the oldest race in the Gulf. Bahrain is a tiny island and you could easily have a point to point marathon from one end to the other if only half of it wasn’t desert!
As it is, the race started outside a beach resort on the southwest coast at 6am and headed out and back twice on a 10km stretch of desert highway. Not the most exciting route with the only landmark being the Sakhir Formula 1 circuit nearby but it was pancake flat and you got to cheer on all the other runners as you passed them by on the return legs. There was a marathon relay for teams of four taking place at the same time which otherwise would have made for a very lonely race as there were only about 80 in the marathon. Bahrain hosts an American naval base and so there were a bunch of British and American marines taking part alongside locals and many other nationalities.
I wasn’t expecting a repeat of last year’s miracle in Muscat and determined to enjoy it instead of obsessing over my Garmin splits and a PB, I paced it slightly slower than Dubai. A proper elite athlete shot off and had a massive lead within a couple of minutes while I was in around seventh place and kept up with one guy for the first 10km leg but when he left me for dead, I ran the rest on my own. The climate is slightly cooler than the Emirates but because there are no buildings or tree cover around the highway, there is absolutely no shelter from the sun so I found it a lot harder going than Dubai.
I was well on the way to sub 3:20 but hit the 35km wall again and ran/walked the rest to finish in 3:25. My worst time in a Gulf marathon in three years but the consolation was I got a trophy for being third in my age category (30+ instead of the usual senior male)! The Bahraini/Moroccan winner ran 2:20 and the runner-up was way behind in just under 3 hours. To run a time like that on a mind numbing course with the sun beating down and nothing but the lead bike for company is just phenomenal! While hanging around near the finish, I spotted a parkrun 50 club shirt. Turns out he was a British marine deployed there and a Portsmouth parkrunner!
A fantastic low key, well organized, value for money marathon. No PBs this time but enjoyable nonetheless.