Training in the desert – the freedom of running

SarahinDubaidesert

MarkinDesert

One of the advantages of running is that it gives you a tremendous sense of freedom and providing there are no safety risks, you can virtually do it anywhere. If you are travelling either in the UK or overseas, you literally need to just take your running-kit and shoes with you, and you aren’t reliant on gym opening-hours. It can allow you to explore new places and come face to face with different cultures, and in my experience, even bring about lifelong friendships. If you have had a busy day, it’s also a good way of de-cluttering your mind.

I started jogging (literally 100 metres!) back in 2003, and built the distance up to running a marathon later that year. I honestly believe that anyone can do this, providing you have no injuries. You just need to really want to do it. Without passion, you won’t be able to motivate yourself to go out on rainy winter-mornings or for example, continue with your training-programme when you are on holiday,and there are other distractions!

Let me give you an example. As you will know if you are following my blog, I have just returned visiting Dubai for 4 days There was a lot to squeeze in – catching up with my friends Paul and Mark, doing some sightseeing and of course, some workouts! We thought that it would be fun to visit the desert on Saturday, so we decided to integrate some exercise into the day.

We packed up a healthy picnic with quiches and salads, and drove from the centre of Dubai to the desert. After savouring our culinary delights, we rested for a while, and then, Mark, Maxwell (my friends’ extremely cute Shih Tzu dog) and I went for a fun run over the dunes. It was a really tough workout running up and down them, but Maxwell couldn’t stop barking with excitement.There was nothing but sand, palm trees, a few Bedouin huts and the odd camel on the horizon.

We ran for about 30 minutes, and then, did some Pilates exercises lying on the warm sand, including some squats, leg-raises and the plank. It was a unique way of experiencing the desert.

Of course, you may not have any plans to visit the desert, but this illustrates the versatility of running and how you can adjust your plans to incorporate some exercise if you really want to. Whether you’re near a park, industrial estate or desert (!), you can make it happen!

What you didn’t know about the Dubai Marathon 2015

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1) It is dubbed the “world’s richest marathon” because the prize money is so generous.

2) The winners, Lemi Berhanu Hayle (2 hours, 5 minutes and 28 seconds) and Aselfech Mergia Medessa (2 hours, 20 minutes and 2 seconds), who are both from Ethiopia, won 200,000 US dollars (around £133,000) for winning the race.

3) Winner Aselfech Mergia Medessa has won the Dubai marathon on three occasions (2011, 2012 and 2015). She has a daughter and wanted to prove to herself and others that she could still win a competition after becoming a mother. She will use the prize money to finish building a hotel in Ethiopia.

4) The backdrop for the start and finish of the marathon is the world’s most luxurious seven-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, which cost 2 billion US dollars to construct. It was commissioned by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed to serve as a global icon, which would put Dubai on the international map.

5) King Abdullah died of a lung infection (on Friday) on the day of the marathon at the age of 90. Dubai has been paying its respects to him by calming its nightlife down for three days.

Buzzing after my 10km and meeting Haile Gebrselassie

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When I woke up at 5am for the Dubai 10km this morning (1am in the UK!), I did momentarily consider rolling over and going back to sleep. Thank goodness I didn’t. It has quite simply been an extraordinary day, and one which has “connected me to the euphoria of life.”

One of my main goals today was to run the 10km, and simply enjoy it and not worry about a time. Last year I tore the cartilage in my left knee when I was running the London Marathon, and at Mile 24, my legs completely seized up on me and I was in a great deal of pain. After stretching, I did manage to get going again, but completed the race limping more like a constipated chicken than a fun-runner. I ended up having a small operation (an arthroscopy) last July, and had to have a 4 month-break from running during which time I gained 4 kilos. I don’t think I like being a couch potato!

With this painful marathon experience etched in my memory, I simply want to run London pain-free and happy this year. The Dubai 10km today was the first part of my marathon journey, and I absolutely loved every minute of it (literally!). For the first time ever, I ditched my stopwatch and left it at home.

As the sun rose over the Dubai skyline at 7.03 am, more than 25,000 10km and marathon runners gathered excitedly at the start-line in the shadow of the iconic Burj Al Arab. The whole place was buzzing, and to quote my friend Mark, “in true Dubai-style, it was a joyful melting-pot of different cultures”. It was impossible not to feel inspired by the camaraderie amongst the runners and the sunshine. The course was fast and flat, but I ran it at a steady pace. I still don’t know my time.

Just as I thought that life couldn’t get any better, something amazing happened! I met one of my personal heroes and one of the greatest distance runners in history, Haile Gebrselassie who has won more than 27 world records. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Serendipity! The photo is definitely going up on my office-wall.

What a day…

My first challenge – the Standard Chartered Dubai 10km

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After one hour’s sleep on the plane last night, I have arrived in Dubai for a long weekend with my friends, Paul and Mark. The sun is shining, and there are blue skies over the city’s Manhattanesque skyline. It feels heavenly to soak up some of the sun’s rays and top up on my Vitamin D.

I started my gentle marathon training-programme at the beginning of January, and tomorrow I will face my first challenge – the Dubai 10k. I actually only registered for it on Monday, so it has all been rather spontaneous. My only goal at this stage is to have an adventure and savour my moments in the sunshine.

It was surprisingly fun picking up my number from Skydive Dubai this afternoon with my friends. There was a hampster-wheel which you could run in (or fall over in!) and a graffiti wall where runners could scribble a message.

Mark and I are now heading down to the Tribefit gym at the marina before carboloading at a Lebanese restaurant tonight.

“Watch the stars and see yourself running with them.”

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SarahandJoshZurich I am a journalist, mother and marathon fun runner and I have just started training for the London Marathon (my 14th!). I am following a programme by running coach, Paddy McGrath from Cookham Running Club and also doing some gym-work at the Crowne Plaza in Marlow. If I can run 26.2 miles, anyone can! I hope that this blog will inspire women of all ages to take up a sporting challenge. Do also follow #thisgirlcan. And if the going gets tough, one thought will carry me through the next 3 months. I am raising money for Partners For Change Ethiopia, a very special charity which has been changing the lives of children in impoverished communities in Ethiopia for more than 30 years: http://www.pfcethiopia.org.

Last year I was fortunate enough to see the groundbreaking work that the charity is doing for myself in Bahir Dar, and it was incredibly moving. If I can give just one a child a roof over their head, access to fresh water or an education, then my run will have been worthwhile. But with your support, who knows what is possible… Please help to make a difference by visiting my Justgiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/Sarah-Parfitt1 Many thanks! Sarah