Monthly Archives: June 2013

Running in Iraq

The track…. and not from bullets or bombs. I spent last week in Iraq for work but managed to find a running club So there I was at 5.30 in the morning trotting round a pristine track in the middle of the Sami Abdulrahman Park. It was absolutely brilliant, nice springy surface and 4 circuits came to 5 km which was my target for my short runs this week. At that time in the morning the temperature was also perfect – around 25.DSC03440
It isn’t really how I had imagined war torn Iraq, this peaceful oasis with birds singing and a cool covering of trees. There was a real mix of people running. There were pairs of very dignified Kurdish men with large moustaches. If you are over the age of 35 and a Kurdish male you have to have a proper moustache – one that if you cut it off and stuck it on the end of a handle you could brush the floor with. A young girl shared a couple of circuits with me, she was studying computer science and wanted to live in Germany. She either ran or swam every day. My favourite person was Khalid, a short, slim guy in his sixties who ran really fast but with tiny steps. It was slightly disconcerting as he kept running backwards so he could chat to me. There was also a rather sedate couple walking at a steady pace round the track, the wife was fully veiled with a long, heavy, black dress and only her eyes showing, but with very high-tech trainers.

Erbil is in the north of Iraq in the autonomous Kurdish region. It appears to be very secure, and very rich. Sitting outside a restaurant one night, I counted 20 $130,000 4x4s pass by in about half an hour. But there is an undercurrent there and I didn’t feel like wandering around on my own too much. The first night, there was gun fire outside my hotel – apparently just an argument over a girl. When I did go down to the main square and bazaar, I caused quite a stir. Wissam who was minding me kept laughing and translating what people what people were saying which was, “What’s THAT? Did you see it?” Not sure how I feel about being described as an it.
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I was in Erbil doing an evaluation of a journalism and civil society training programme run by Internews and it was certainly an interesting week. All the talk was of corruption, money, bribes and how to get the country moving forward. I met internal displacees from Baghdad who praise the peace and tolerance in Erbil but sorely missed their vibrant life in the capital.

Training this week:
3 x 5 kms
1 x 11.5 kms

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I’ve been and gone and done it

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Next year this will be me! I have signed up to run the Marathon Des Sables. It is billed as the toughest footrace on earth.

This is what the website blurb says ” Imagine yourself in the Sahara desert with nothing but rolling sand dunes for miles around. When you plough your feet through the sand, a fine dust kicks up. You can’t feel the sweat dripping down your face because it’s evaporating in the baking heat. Your lungs feel parched. Today’s temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees centigrade). Part of your brain is screaming at you to stop, right now, to drop out of the race, but the other part of your brain is stronger. The other part of your brain knows that when you complete the final stage of the Marathon des Sables, you will have run the equivalent of five and a half marathons in five or six days, a total distance of some 251 km – 156 miles”

And this is what my dear friend Jo said when I told her of my plan. “No, you will totally wreck your body, you can’t do it, it is totally hideous, it is so so bad for you. I am not going to talk to you about it anymore I am so angry. You live in a fantasy world!” And she LIKES me.

I was wheedled into it by the persuasive Charlie Shepherd. He is running it too and the only minor differences between us are that he is super fit and skinny and he lives in Morocco.

But I DO love a challenge and this is really going to be that. I am a pretty useless runner but I have got good endurance so I am going to train like a demon, and hope the endurance pays off.
Did I mention that I haven’t actually run a full marathon before? Hmm.

So, if you have any hints, tips, thoughts, ideas, want to come and buddy me on some training runs, please let me know. I need all the help I can get. I am running for MENCAP and will be doing some great fundraising events through the year.

This week I started my training with “Hal Higdon’s Novice Marathon Program”. 3 miles, 3 miles, 3 miles, 6 miles. You have to start somewhere.

Our lovely Hayfield Post Mistress – putting the application in the post for me. No turning back.
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