‘It Started all Smiles’ Dubai Marathon 2010

Okay so first I have to clarify, when I say marathon I mean the full deal, 42 kilometers!

It’s the day before the race, I’m excited. (Maybe because I haven’t run in 2 weeks due to injury and so I’m strangely missing it!) I go to collect my race pack. The guy behind me in the queue turns to me and says ‘first marathon?’ I reply ‘yes’ and then he says ‘thought so since you can’t stop smiling’ (I realize how much of a goof I can be)

After that I make my way to the hotel where I am to be staying with my cousin N who is planning to run the 10k race at the same time. We have our final carb-fest at a stodgy buffet then go to bed at 11:30 pm. Next morning we get up EARLY to leave the hotel at 5:30 am to make our way to the race. Definitely not enough sleep, I’m feeling sick already and the race hasn’t even started! What can one expect though waking up at such an outrageous hour? Just before we leave N decides to say ‘I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but most people lose a toe-nail after a marathon’ THANKS cuz! We get there, it’s around 6am and still dark, it‘s much warmer than I expect, I’m slightly worried.. N leaves me to get on with her race and I’m thinking about how I don’t know anyone else running the 42K. My thoughts soon get diverted and my eyes widen as I spot all the eye candy in the crowd, so many fit and nicely tanned people in one place, all from a variety of countries-I’m feeling good! I try to find the starting point, the 42K runners are wearing a blue badge and the 10k runners who start 15 mins after us are wearing green. I soon realize that everyone is in position and my race is about to start and I should be at the front, I try to push my way through the green 10k runners (as I’m supposed to) and keep getting dirty looks from men who think they are ‘matcho’ waiting to run the 10k who take one look at me and assume since I’m small/young I’m running the 10k too and that I’m just pushing for no reason. No BITCHES I’m running the full thing, they look down at my blue badge and soon realize, yeah thought so.. 😉

The race starts, it’s still dark, adrenaline kicks in and I’m feeling great and full of energy. The atmosphere is buzzing, people are carrying their native flags whilst they run, I spot one man wearing a nuns’ outfit and I exchange banter with a few around me while I still have the energy. 2K into the race and there are a few men going for a wee in the grass on my right hand side, hardly subtle and I’m thinking get a grip guys there are going to be toilets in a bit and us women can wait!! I spot a man cycling alongside his partner wearing a huge sign on his back sayin ‘Go Rach’ and carrying a variety of refreshments for her, I’m thinking ‘how cute!!!’ About 4k into the race the sun starts to rise, the ‘Burj al Arab’ is right in front of me, a very picturesque scene. There are supporters all around who have woken up extra early to see us, one little girl is waving a German flag, a reminder of how diverse this city is. I’m feeling good and thinking to myself ‘I don’t care what people say about Dubai it really is an amazing city’. I breeze though the first 10k..

15k in and I’m still going strong, I decide it’s a good time to use the toilet. I enter into what must be the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen, I want to cry but soon get over it. I pass 20k, it’s still a breeze, one man looks at me and shouts out, ‘at least someone is still smiling!’ At this point I realize how well I’m doing for time and considering it still felt effortless I’m almost sure I’ll complete the full marathon within 4 hours. I remember that I told my friends to expect me at the finish line at 5hrs and I think that they probably won’t make it in time to catch me at the rate I’m going, I’m thinking I should have had more faith in myself and told them to come earlier.

Meanwhile I see the world record holder Haile Gebrselassie on the other side of the course close to finishing the race (!) (Did I mention the PRIZE MONEY for 1st place is $1,000,000? Crazy!!) He is at the front followed by about 3 others behind him, around them there are cars, flashing lights and a general fuss, I’m actually so excited for them and astonished at how fast they are, unbelievable. I start to cheer loudly (and maybe too enthusiastically) as each of them pass me and I’m thinking they probably won’t even notice me but if they did they’d be thinking who’s this crazy girl jumping around and cheering away on her own! (At this point I’m still full of energy, happy to be posing for photos and waving at all the children on looking the race). I pass the half way point, still no problems at all. I remember that I forgot to take painkillers before the race but think to myself it doesn’t look like I’d need them anyway. I decide to continue running at the same comfortable pace I’d been going and that I would speed up closer to the end.

At 25k I start to feel my knees getting strained, I think shit I wish I had taken the painkillers. I then remind myself that it’s all in the mind and that I should stay focused. I don’t think much of it. I soon find myself walking for a bit, this was the first time I’d stopped running since I’d started the race. I tell myself it’s fine and that it’s a good time to take a break. A few minutes later and I’m off again, I tell myself my next break will be at around 32K but I find about 5 minutes later I’m walking again. I tell myself I probably didn’t take a long enough break and that’s it’s okay since I’d been doing so well for time. I start running again and find that my knee pain has got significantly worse and I start to feel a lot of strain on my right ankle, I realize that stopping or slowing down only makes the pain worse and so I decide to avoid it as much as possible. I’m trying to run but my right leg is in so much pain especially the ankle. I go to the side of the course and do some intense stretching before running again. It feels much better, but only for about 3 minutes! I decide that I’m going to have to walk for a while now since running was getting to painful and I didn’t want to injure myself further. I am not happy, I still have a long way to go now and should not be taking such a long break at this stage.

I try to think positive, the sun is beaming, I tell myself it’s all fine I still have loads of energy, my leg should feel better soon and I’ll make up for it later. I think to myself at least I’ll get a good tan, this makes me feel better. I walk up to about 27k before I decide it’s time to try running again. It’s painful but I decide I must push myself, a minute in and the pain is excruciating, I can’t even hide it in my expression, nearby runners ask me if I’m okay, one tells me he’s going to run ahead and get a physiotherapist to come and help me. I realize this is serious and I’m stressed since I know there is a long way to go. Some guy passes by on a bike, camera in hand, and dressed as a clown (although not literally!) he’s over enthusiastic, I’m thinking he better not think about taking any pictures of me, not now, I’m REALLY not in the mood. He takes about six photos of me continuously, I want to smack him but I hold back. I’m limping along, waiting for someone to help but nothing. I decide to turn to food, I take out the 1AED (about 12p) ‘Marhaba’ bar from my pocket (translates to ‘Hello’ in English) it’s basically sugar coated peanuts and I only had one small bar. Just as I take my last bite a French guy also struggling along starts talking to me and telling me he feels dizzy since he has no food, ( I feel bad naturally after just eating in front of him) we both start complaining that they haven’t provided any sweet drinks or snacks on the course and that’s it’s ridiculous considering how much we pay to register for the race. An attractive Russian lady starts cheering for us, I tell him that should have at least perked him up (!) he tells me he hates blondes and that he only goes for brunettes, (that’s when I move on) still limping away…

An ambulance passes by, I stop them and ask for help, they immediately say no, I ask them if they can at least call first aid or someone else for help, they just say no (not sure if that was the only word in their vocabulary) they seem extremely lazy and at this point I tell myself I hate this country!

I reach 30k, the French guy passes me again and tells me he’s going to get into a taxi and leave the race. I tell him he’s crazy after getting so far, he leaves none the less. I realize that no matter what I’m not going to give up, it’s not in my nature at all even though sometimes I wish it was. There is still 12K to go, it’s been 4hrs and I wonder how and when I’m going to do it. I try to run again for the last time but seconds into it the pain is again excruciating, someone behind me tells me that I really need to stop and that if I try to run it’s just going to get worse until I won’t even be able to walk. I know they are absolutely right and I stop. I now have to face the reality that I still have 12k to go and walking it was not only going to take FOREVER but it was going to be BOOORING. Thank God for my iPod..

By this point I was literally dragging my right leg, I could put no pressure on it at all and it was getting worse. I try to find ways to entertain myself and I realize that I have a serious ‘bop’ going on with my leg, I think to myself ‘wow I feel like a rudeboy, cool’ if there was anytime to look like a rudeboy and get away with it it was now, this entertains me for a good while and I start to bop to the beat of my music and really get into the flow of it. (looking back luckily there weren’t too many people around) Whilst songs like Oi- More Fire Crew and Origina Nutter- Shy FX appear on my playlist I really start to feel like an outlaw who got shot in the foot and is trying to escape to freedom. Did I mention I am very easily entertained? I start to reminisce on how at the beginning of the race 10k flew by and reaching 20k was also a breeze, I compare it to now where 1k alone is a struggle. Still I’m moving fast as far as limping is concerned and I’m frustrated at the fact that I still have so much energy and if it wasn’t for the leg pain I’d be still moving strong. In some ways this ‘power walking’ was harder than running anyway since my body isn’t as used to it. At around 33K I start to worry about sunburn, at 35 I worry about sunstroke but decide it’s best not to think about it. I realize that I’m definitely not going to make my 5hr target not even close and I worry that my friends wont have the patience to wait for me at the finish line.

It’s around 37k I’m getting there and still dragging my right leg, quite a sight. More onlookers gather toward the end of the race all cheering and telling me I’m nearly there and that I’m doing well. I feel like shouting out aggressively ‘don’t patronize me!’ but I calm myself and remember that I’m not really a ‘rudeboy’` and that I shouldn’t let my frustration out on them. Still at this point I know I will at least get to the finish and I remind myself that this run was not for anything competitive but just to raise money for charity and that I’d achieved that target. This makes me content and I’m smiling the rest of the way. It’s my last kilometer, I hope that there will be at least someone waiting to greet me but so far no sign. I see the finish line I’m almost there and there is still a large crowd around, I suddenly hear some people shout out very very LOUDLY ‘D you’re the hottest girl in the whole marathon!!’ I burst out laughing as well as many spectators and look up to see my friends.  As soon as I crossed the line I was handed a medal and greeted by one of the authorities who smiled at me and said ‘first marathon!?’ I then went on to my lovely friends, it was so nice to see their faces after that ordeal and they were most entertained at how I was limping through.

CONCLUSION: My finishing time was 5hrs 46mins which is pretty awful by my standards but considering I ended up having to walk (power-walk!) almost 17k I don’t think it was too bad going.. Oh and all ten of my candy-pink colored toe-nails were indeed still in tact phe-ew! Would I do it again? DEFINITELY

Finally I’d like to add my thanks to everyone who sponsored me, gave me kind words of encouragement, helped to spread the word, and those who accommodated and fed me so well leading up to the race. It means a lot..  If you would like to continue donating my page will be open for another year http://www.justgiving.com/Dana-Elemara

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