“Say what now?! Dubai are planning to close down part of the main E11 highway, the Sheikh Zayed Road, and let people run along it. For free?! Sign me up!”
Like thousands and thousands of others the very notion of being able to experience what it would be like to run down the middle of a mega-highway completely devoid of traffic and to experience the view of Dubai that greets those hurtling along it’s main artery and that has been immortalised on screen countless times was too much to turn down. I’ve run my fair share of organised races and so am happy to fork out some cash for the chance to take my place on the starting line. It is rare, however, to get to take part in an event of the magnitude of the Dubai 30×30 Sheikh Zayed Road run and to be able to do so for gratis. The upside to the decision to levy no entry charge to runners was that people turned out in droves for the event, with every facet of the city’s population represented and not just those affluent enough to be able to throw down a couple of hundred dirhams to spend their morning off running. This was a master stroke as it gave the entire event a real sense of togetherness that made it all the more memorable.
It seems that thought had really gone into the logistics of the event as well, from having multiple pickup points for race numbers the day before to ample transport options, including opening up the metro super early to allow runners to avoid adding to traffic and to access to event from across the city. I took advantage of the fact that the Mall of the Emirates was opened up, allowing parking and metro access, which made the whole morning sooooooo much less stressful than it might otherwise have been.
Arriving at the Trade Centre by metro I will confess that I was initially a little anxious when I saw just how many people were present. However, with the crowds in jubilant mood and everyone being respectful of others the slow shuffle to leave the station just added to the sense of grand occasion that we were all part of. There was a real air of excitement, with the weather and conditions just perfect, and as I joined the swell of runners lining up for the 10km race – separate start and finish to the 5km, which was another smart decision – I was glad I brought out the 360-degree camera to record the event.
Whilst it was never going to be my fastest 10km run, on account of the sheer number of people out on the course and the desire to stop at a few points to record some memories, the final 5km that took us past the Dubai Mall and then towards the finish at the Trade Centre had enough gaps open that I was able to really find a fun rhythm and pace to feel as though I was getting a solid run in. In fact, it was really a lot of fun getting to weave in and out of people, imagining that I was driving my very own Lambourghini along the boulevard – simple things!
All told, this was a great event and I can definitely see it becoming an annual fixture on the Dubai calendar. Well done Dubai.