I was in a team of five with Laura and three people from the local Muscat Road Runners club. We had 72km to cover between us and a jeep for support. Arriving the night before for a barbecue on the beach there was already a great buzz with teams huddled around camp fires, playing music and getting their cars stuck in the sand. The following morning was even better, people limbering up and putting their final touches to their fancy dress costumes.
Apart from the 16 bold competitors undertaking the distance solo (about the same length as the Central Line for the Tube enthusiasts amongst you) who had to depart at 4.30am to get back in time without being toasted by the sun, the rest of us started any time between 6 and 9am.
It was a wonderfully relaxed approach. The rules were entirely self enforced. It would have been very easy to cheat if you’d wanted but it wasn’t that kind of race. There was competition enough to make you try hard but it was far outweighed by comradery and good will, cars honking their support as they passed by and cheering whatever name was on the back of your t-shirt.
The route followed the wadi, a dried out river gorge, from the beach, up to 1,000m and back down again on dirt tracks. There were checkpoints (nothing more than a number by the side of the road) every 2-4km where runners would hand their baton to a team mate then pile into the car to race ahead to the next stop.
This was a new running style for me, going as fast as I possibly could for 15 minutes, resting for an hour then repeating four more times. I covered little over 15km but I did it in under an hour and felt as tired as if I’d run twice as far.
With the staggered start you had no idea how well you were doing relative to the other 150 teams taking part. Our only target were the other friendly rival team from Muscat Road Runners, the Tortoises to our Hares, who we’d given a 90 minute head start. We were a somewhat motley bunch thrown together a little last minute. We ran hard but without too much seriousness and so were elated to discover at the afternoon’s prize giving that we had finished in seventh place.