This is my personal race report about the Dubai Marathon. Later this week/early next week I will post a detailed review about the marathon itself.
I was really excited going into this race as I had a great training program, the training itself went well and it was a city that I had already ran in. Not only that, but the course was known to be very fast and was begging for a world record. That meant that the race committee and city organizers were going to do everything within their power to ensure that the course and race were ready and well-organized.
I arrived in Dubai late at night, two nights before the start of the race. I had some plans to look around town a bit the next day, pick-up my packet, and get a good pasta meal before heading back to the hotel and resting up. I did my shakeout jog of a couple of miles the day before the race and was feeling good. Later that evening, I went to the Italian restaurant next door to my hotel and had a great plate of spaghetti and garlic bread. They tasted great and made me feel better about getting a nice meal in before the race. I laid out all of my race gear before bed but was pretty nervous and tossed and turned for a while in bed before falling asleep around 11PM.
My alarm went off shrilly at 4:00AM on race day. I did some stretching, starting eating my breakfast foods (muffin, bananas, and some oats). After that, I methodically began dressing and getting my gear on. I went over each piece to ensure I had everything I needed. When 5:20 came, I headed downstairs to grab a taxi to the starting line.
Ten minutes later, I was walking towards the runners’ village. It was already packed with runners which left me very little room to get my warm-up run in. The weather at this point still felt cool even though it was already in the mid-60s. After warming up a bit, I headed to the trailers that housed the bathroom units. I was relieved to find that there was no line – only to find the line inside instead. At least we got to be warm! After taking care of things there, I made my way to another corner of the runners’ village to stretch and check everything. Once I felt good about it, I made my way to the starting line. This was much more difficult than it sounds given the amount of 10K runners that were trying to get into the area mixing with the thousands of marathon runners trying to get out. A lot of shoving and what felt like some pretty serious touching went on before I got out to the street. We had to make our way down the road down a bit further and got in the pack at the start.
The announcers were doing their thing of talking about “famous” people (that I had never heard of) who were in attendance and then talked about the elite runners that were making their appearance at the race (some pretty great runners). After about 10 more minutes, they removed the barriers separating the elite runners from everyone else and we crowded to the start. I just wish I had been bold enough to be more near the front because the regular runners who had made their way upfront were actually touching arms and shoulders with the elites at the starting line! That would have made a really cool photo I would have held on to! The gun went off and we went off as well!
I had made the decision to break the race down into energy gel segments. I figured I would take a gel every 6 miles and would use that breakdown as my point of focus.
The race plan was to do the following:
- Mile 1 – 13 – Run at a 7:40-7:50 pace
- Mile 14 – 20 – Run at 7:30-7:35 pace
- Mile 21 – 23 – Run at 7:20-7:25 pace
- Mile 24 – finish – Run as quick as I can
Running these paces would put me at or below the goal of a 3:20 pace. I had been working with a coach using the Hanson’s Method and we both felt good about shooting for that goal. The training had gone great with the targeted marathon pace runs of 7:37. I was nervous about it since that was going to be a huge PR for me (a 15 minute PR) but was confident that I could do it.
Miles 1 – 6
The first few miles were feeling better than I thought. Normally, I have a hard time with the crowd for the first mile or so and then I try to hard to get back on track. This time, I was able to get close to the pace fairly quick. It took a lot of weaving around! The weather was still in the mid-60s with the humidity around 70% and the sun already coming up.
- Mile 1 – 7:53
- Mile 2 – 7:42
- Mile 3 – 7:45
- Mile 4 – 7:41
- Mile 5 – 7:41
- Mile 6 – 7:43
Everything was going to plan though the weather felt a bit too warm for my taste. I took my first GU and kept getting my water and Gatorade as I went. The first part of the course was going out from the Jumeirah area and heading past Burj Al Arab (the world’s only 7 star hotel) towards the downtown direction. The streets felt good and the aid stations were well positioned as we went.
Miles 7 – 12
Even though I was sticking with my 6 mile segments, I knew that the real work was going to start when I hit mile 14 as that was the first part where I dropped my pace. I actually was feeling really good and somewhat impatient to get the pace faster. It felt like I was chomping at the bit a little which was a good feeling instead of wondering if I would be able to hold on for another 14 miles.
- Mile 7 – 7:41
- Mile 8 – 7:44
- Mile 9 – 7:44
- Mile 10 – 7:44
- Mile 11 – 7:41
- Mile 12 – 7:39
Around mile 11 is where we turned around to head back the other way. Around mile 8 is where we caught a glimpse of the lead pack. That is really cool to be able to see these incredible elite athletes maintaining such an awesome pace. This was about the half-way point for them and they were looking really good. It was a sizable pack too, around 12 altogether. The strides were such a thing of beauty!
Miles 13 – 18
Mile 13 came and I had a quick stop to refill my bottle and grab some sponges as the weather was picking up. I knew that once I hit mile 14 I was really getting down to business so it was getting to be anxious time!
- Mile 13 – 8:14
- Mile 14 – 7:32
- Mile 15 – 7:39
- Mile 16 – 9:29
- Mile 17 – 7:48
- Mile 18 – 9:00
As you can see, something started to happen at mile 16. That something was getting sick. I had to stop to throw up and started getting some serious stomach pains when running. At the time, I thought that the humidity was getting to me, even though I have never thrown up in all of my previous marathons (ultra marathons I have thrown up, but those are totally different animals!). However, after I got home, I realized that it was the stomach flu after some of my family members got the same thing I had. That was a relief (though I was sorry for my family) to know what it was and that it was a stomach flu instead of just the weather.
Anyway, everytime I would run for a couple of minutes, I would have to stop to get sick again. If I was walking, it was a bit better. I ended up getting sick 9 or 10 times throughout the rest of the race. This was a huge disappointment since my legs felt great but running much at all made me have to stop and get sick. Hugely disappointing. I just wanted to stop and be done since it was so obviously not my day. However, because I had told my kids I was going to get them another medal and have never DNFed (Did Not Finish) a marathon, I knew I had to just finish it out.
Mile 19 – 26.2
Now, it was getting quite warm and humid. I had passed about 12 of the elite runners along the way as they were just walking at this point. For elite runners, if they are not having a good day or cannot place well, they will often stop as it is a waste to push hard at something that will not bring them money. They find that they are better off just stopping and waiting for another race in the near future. Still, it felt weird to pass these runners who were so capable of sub 2:10 marathons! 🙂
- Mile 19 – 10:30
- Mile 20 – 9:29
- Mile 21 – 9:32
- Mile 22 – 10:20
- Mile 23 – 12:51
- Mile 24 – 11:55
- Mile 25 – 10:00
- Mile 26 – 12:45
As we neared the end, the majority of the people were waiting there. It was nice to see quite a crowd that was still lingering for those of us who were so far behind the winners. It was great to get the final boost of the cheering that brought us down the homestretch. It felt terrible to not be able to run well even at the end but my stomach was still hurting way too much. The finish came and I was happy to be done. I got my medal, sat for a few minutes to let my stomach calm down, grabbed a cab, and headed back to my hotel to get a bath.
Well, it was far from the marathon I wanted. But that is part of the allure of the marathon – the idea and knowledge that you really do not know what is going to come your way. With shorter races, you can always work through it. With 26.2 miles, a lot of stuff can happen. Since most runners are out there for between 3 – 5 hours, there can be some significant weather changes, foot issues, enough time for the stomach issues to begin, and many other things. I was and am very disappointed with the race. The good thing is that my legs still felt very good and I feel that I could have really hit my time had it not been for my stomach flu. At least I can chalk up the failure of my goal to something outside of my control.
- Race Time: 3:52:30
- Race Pace: 8:49 per mile
- Calories Burned: 2700
- Avg Heart Rate: 152bpm