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Letter From Arabia - A Classy Run

Expert Author Stephen J Turner

A newcomer to Dubai is impressed by the high standard of organisation in a half marathon. The piece de resistance being the linen clothed silver service finishers' meal.

Letter from Arabia - If a lager organised runs.

'Coffee, Sir?' enquired the graciously polite waiter attired in dark blue with gold edging mandarin suit. My affirmative response reflected the quality of the beverage and the desire to re-hydrate following completion of the in augural Saucony Hills Emirates half marathon. The outdoor tables were decorated with flower arrangements, crisp white linen table cloths with silver service and crockery to enjoy the post-race brunch served by the staff from the golf club on their immaculate green lawn.

The day began with a minor panic as I overshot the motorway exit junction en route to the start. A fatal manoeuvre in Dubai as it usually entails travelling another 5k to execute a U-turn and recover lost ground. By the time I'd registered, pinned my race number with name on it, queued to drop my bag, make a pit-stop, I wandered to the start line. There I heard the tannoy announce twenty seconds to the start. Hmmm...... two minutes early according to my fellow runners at the back of the 873 strong field. Oh well, I'll see how many I overtake, a game I sometimes play in mountain bike races when I know the course.

The mercury climbed to 29oC but fortunately a light cloud cover shielded us from the stinging sun. The first couple of miles routed us past the futuristically designed club house and circumnavigated the luxurious villas overlooking the course. Some regulars were maybe a bit sniffy about interrupting their play whilst others cheered us on. The route then exited the golf course, diving into a still-asleep up-market housing (read big villas) estate. The race followed a brick-laid path around the perimeter of several lakes in the estate, our eyes widening with the scale of some of the properties and their imaginative designs. Certainly out of my price league. Gatorade and water was provided by enthusiastic supporters donning curly blue wigs (the Brits and Ozzies) or by vocal locals with lots of American-style 'good jobs'. I've always disliked that phrase, as it's one used by a relation when praising my son for doing a pooh when a little baby. The things you never forget.

The humidity seemed to be greater today and I sweated heavily. Even after showering I was still hot and leaking. Pity the Arab lady in scarf, black long sleeved top and black tights. Credit to her for running, though. Unfortunately, not many other locals had entered. The finish line commentator was the typical mouthy type, praising and insulting finishers in turn, egging folks on to a sprint finish. Spectators cheered you home. Trainer bag, techie hot-weather t shirt, medal, chocolates, were the freebies, plus the excellent brunch. Showers were in the classy club house. The above surface entrance was a glass pyramid, whereupon stepping downstairs to the golf range level introduced a sumptuous lobby/restaurant/locker room environment. Helpers offered towels on entry and the numerous slate and marble showers offered toiletries by The White Company. A totally different standard to normal fayre after a mtb/running/adventure race, where most times a shower doesn't exist/hot water's exhausted/it's full of yesterday's football team mud/water flow is a trickle/it smells.

The post-race presentation was brief and efficient with prizes presented by the sponsoring Sheikh. If that well-known lager company organised races, it would be difficult to beat this one. When Dubai does something, it appears to do it well and with some style.

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