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Thursday, April 24, 2014  
RUNNING FREE
THIRTY BRAVE SOULS PARTICIPATED IN THE MUSCAT ROAD RUNNERS’ VERY FIRST 42.195 KM MARATHON, WRITES STACEY ROSS

RUNNERS find weekends to be the best time to hit the road, especially early in the morning to avoid the heat and also the heavy traffic. Admittedly, getting out of bed at 5am to start a long-distance run that will last several hours is not so appealing. Only a sadist would make you perform such a brutal act, especially on a Friday.

For most people, dragging yourself from the comfort of a cosy bed at such an unsociable hour usually means your catching a flight. And, it’s a comforting thought to know we’re not alone in our thinking. It wasn’t long before a supporter was overheard echoing similar sentiments. Touché! Cold and dark, who would voluntarily sign themselves up for a four-to-five-hour run? A powerful incentive would have to be there – surely. Either that or you would begin to question whether you’re in your right state of mind.

In our opinion, a day off should be just that! And usually involves lounging on a beach sunning yourself. Slightly perplexed at the vast appeal of such an event, the Oman Mirror team decided to take a closer look at a rare breed of ‘running enthusiasts.’

So last Friday, at 6am sharp, we showed up at the InterContinental Hotel to watch the Muscat Road Runners commence their own very first full 42.195 km marathon. The first full marathon was run in Muscat in 1989 and surprisingly there’s been nothing since!

Unfazed by the distance or the darkness, 30 brave souls enthusiastically set off. And, it would be several hours until any of them came back…

“When you realise what the benefits are, getting up in the morning is not a problem,” says Ionut Nistoroiu, a sports enthusiast. “It creates a better state of mind and you become more confident in your own abilities.”

And, it has to be said that our initial exasperation of getting up in the morning, when it was cold and dark, soon gave way to the realisation that being a Muscat Road Runner demands not only a high level of physical fitness but a considerable amount of mental strength. These runners rely solely on sheer grit and determination and in doing so display their strong strength of character.

The runners started off from the InterContinental Hotel through Shatti and past the Royal Opera House. They then ran all the way along the Beach Road until they got to the roundabout at the bottom of the Crowne Plaza where they turned right. They ran all the way down past Qurum Park and then turned left as if they were going to PDO. Then they ran all the way back to the InterContinental Hotel; they needed to do that four times if they wanted to run the full marathon.  Phew! We’re exhausted just thinking about it! But don’t let that put you off! Another 150 runners participated in the event doing shorter distances. “It’s been run over four loops of 10.5km each so it means that people who can’t manage a full marathon can still join in with one loop, two loops or three loops so there’s something for everybody,” says Paula Edwards, Chairperson, Muscat Road Runners.

Edwards says individuals stuck inside on the treadmill are missing out on the camaraderie and that is an important part of being a member of Muscat Road Runners. “You don’t have that same sense of achievement and you will always push yourself harder if you’re running with people. I think you’re far more inclined to push yourself to go an exercise if you’re exercising with like-minded people,” she says.  

Physically demanding, long-distance running is a great way to stay in shape whilst having a large amount of fun in the process. “I have seen people join our club and loss eight, 10, 15 kilos in weight and who have gone from being somebody who could barely trot along for 100 metres to people who are now taking part in full Iron Man competitions. So it’s just been wonderful and it’s very satisfying to see how people grow, develop and change.”

Ironman is an endurance race made up of a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycle and a 42.2km marathon. The training is extremely time-consuming (between 2-3 hours per day) and requires a significant amount of mental and physical preparation.

Aside from the physical benefits, Edwards stresses the social aspects of it. “We are a very, very friendly multi-national group. Everybody, at every level of fitness, is welcome. Absolutely everybody! And, we will take great delight in seeing them struggle along for the first kilometre and then we’ll take great delight in seeing them a year down the line taking in their first marathon.”

Muscat Road Runner has members from all over the world, including USA, Oman, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Europe and South America. It has helped to unify expatriates and locals who live here in Muscat, all in the name of fun. “We’re all here together, having the time of our lives,” Edwards adds.

David Baravian, a keen runner who participated in Friday’s marathon, said: “It’s always a pleasure to run with the Muscat Road Runners because there is solidarity running with other people and its very fun. You can meet people from different countries and it’s always a pleasure to run with people from different backgrounds.”

Another runner who completed the race, Robert Ambrose, says: “It’s informal and takes care of all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to be a great runner of anything like that; it welcomes everybody from all walks of life so everybody is welcome.”  

So, if you’re fed up with predictable weeknights in the Sultanate, or want to infuse some excitement into your week - it’s time to sign up, meet new friends and experience this high intensity sport. If you truly love to compete in the form of a challenge or a race, and are passionate about pushing the limits of your mind and body, you won’t be disappointed!

Even in the height of summer Muscat Road Runners pound the pavement. They run 52 weeks a year every Sunday (for a social run) and every Tuesday (for a timed race) – “but don’t let that scare you,” she laughs.  

“We have a handicap where the slowest go off first and the fastest go off last. And, we have a predictor where you don’t wear a watch and you just predict your time over a five or a 10m loop. So, it’s not serious.”

For preparation Edwards suggests starting gently and slowly, and gradually building up. “To start off with you could just do a one kilometre loop. Just start trotting slowly and after about maybe 100 metres (it depends how fit you are) then break to a walk for a 100 metres then start running again slowly. Do that for a week and maybe the next week you could look at two kilometres.”

Don’t think you have it in you? Remember you don’t have to run a marathon to be healthy, but try to be active every day in as many ways as you can! Try putting together at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on most, preferably all days. If you can, try to enjoy some regular vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness. Exercise will not only prevent weight gain but improve your confidence and self-esteem. It may be hard to believe but there is enjoyment in it, so get those endorphins pumping!

“I feel so great after completing a 10km run, I feel lighter and I feel so fit. I feel a great sense of satisfaction,” says Nanit Hermosa, from the Oman Muscat Road Runners.

The feeling of achievement associated with accomplishing your fitness goals shouldn’t be underestimated, so remember to set yourself realistic fitness goals in order to maintain them. Setting goals too far in advance will only make you lose motivation and sight of the end.

Good Luck!.

sross1988@gmail.com

Oman Mirror
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