Where & When:
Muscat, Oman, January 2018
Oman is truly spectacular with an incredibly beautiful landscape full of mountains and Wadis. We spent a few days exploring some of Oman’s offerings and were welcomed by such a welcoming culture with very smiley and happy locals.
Why I ran this course:
This is a great example of meeting people through running, being inspired by other runners and discovering amazing new places. Laura, who I met at the Lisbon Marathon, spent some time in Oman when she was younger. On talking about races and adventures she suggested I look at the Marathon in Muscat and shared some pictures from the country of places where we could visit easily on a trip. As always I didn’t need to think twice after seeing the pictures! I was joined on the trip by Angela and Stephane whom I met running in Myanmar back on 2016.
A very flat, 2-lap route along the coast taking in golf courses, rich-people’s housing areas and the sea front. Nothing overly scenic and an extra 3-mile (out and back) stretch on the second lap added a particular mental challenge to the course.
Pretty good. Everything leading up to the event was efficient and informative. The organisers were quick to respond to questions via email and accommodated overseas entries and runners very well (e.g. able to make special arrangements to collect race packs). A slight delay (20mins) to the 6am start was annoying but beyond the organisers control (technical difficulties ensuring traffic barriers were cleared). I feel the organisers were let down though by the volunteers on the day who were mostly not particularly attentive (needing coaxing at the water stations for example) or just appeared un- interested in the race.
Non-existent. Despite plenty of people being about the atmosphere was as flat as the course. I can recall just a handful of people clapping/cheering/supporting runners around the course. This naturally improved at the finishing stretch but not to the extent that it created an atmosphere. A traditional Omani band provided some entertainment along the route which was a pleasant relief.
You might have gathered by now that I don’t tend to stick to any particular, regimented training plan. This continued through November and December as I just ensured to do a number of long runs and few shorter ones in the week. In December I started going to some ‘Mountain Athletics’ training sessions held in London by the Never Stop London community (North Face). These sessions focus on upper and lower body workouts fused with running and techniques. through the community I also started trail running with a few people I met. So distance wise I was certainly covering the miles now (December ended up being my third highest month for total mileage, impressive considering the top two months included a 100km race each time!).
I set out in the morning with Angela and we walked the brief stretch from our Hotel. Stephane, staying else where that night, joined us at the start line.
By now I’d identified my plans for 2018 and the Muscat Marathon would be the first race of my 2018 12 month challenge. I’d decided to approached the marathon with a relaxed “just enjoy it” attitude. However, after the frustration of being kept waiting at the start line (and thinking to much about risking a toilet stop) I got a little caught up in a sprint off the starting line. I settled in behind a local runner and progressed through the crowd over the first few kilometers. I felt good, so I decided to keep the pace going. I devised a race strategy there and then, telling myself to keep running at a 7min/mile pace for the first 10 miles before dropping this to 7:10-7:20 min/miles for the next 10 miles. The final 6 miles I’d run at a comfortable pace and enjoy the finish. The first 10 miles went to plan and I continued strong into the second 10. Around mile 17 though my pace started to drop and I was struggling to maintain the target 7:20 min/mile pace, fluctuating more around 7:30 min/miles. I adapted once again, making the promise that I could keep this pace instead if I continued for an extra mile before dropping to the more comfortable pace at mile 21. As I reached the turn around point on the beach straight I didn’t realise that the second lap involved running further along the coast before turning back towards the finish. This was admittedly a struggle as the road was so straight and there was no sign of the turn in the distance. Eventually I reached this point (coincidentally it was about 21 miles into the race), grabbing some flat coke, popping an SIS gel, which I picked up earlier,and settled into a slower rhythm, aiming to maintain 8:00 min/miles to the finish. Over the next few miles I was over taken by two runners looking strong (one of whom was to come home as the second female finisher) and I must have sub-consciously recognised the chance at a sub 3:10 finish as my pace picked up again for the last two miles. Gladly the finishing stretch was short! job done. I stuck around at the end to cheer and support (some one had too!) and to catch Angela cross the line.
Besides the medal (which I actually really like for a change, a very simplistic and stylish design) and the T shirt, participants received a rather high-quality looking swim bag. Nice touch.
- 3:09:24 (PB)