On weekends, Alex, Olya and I love exploring the UAE. Usually, we either sign up for an organized running event or drive to the mountains or sand dunes and run on our own. Some events are a bit technical, while others are intended for more casual runners.
One advantage of running in all these events is that we get to experience parts of the UAE which may otherwise be inaccessible. Now we are comfortable enough with the locale that we are able to bring colleagues from the office out on some adventures, like the Hatta Hills 3km, 10km and Half Marathon held every March.
The Hatta Hills Half Marathon is a great family event in the mountainous area of the Emirate of Dubai, attracting both serious runners and people who run for fun. In addition to the half marathon, there is a 10km road race and a 3km event. The organizers put together a wonderful picnic area at a hotel which provides breakfast and the sponsors have concession stands for a mini-running festival. The beauty of an event like this is that there is something for everybody. We organize a bus and bring a group from the office to enjoy both running and simply getting out in the countryside of Dubai.
Great Course for Enjoying a Run
This event attracts about 500 runners and families, which is pretty big, considering that it is about an hour and a half drive from Dubai City. The course is like a shamrock, where you run to the center point, and then do out and back runs. Each out and back takes you up a little hill to Hatta Dam and reservoir, which means spectacular views. As a runner, the fun part is passing by everybody on each loop – when you give encouragement and you get a little motivation boost in return. Plus, you get to see your friends running – at Hatta Hills, Yann is way ahead as expected, Pornsak from Hajar and I cross paths, and Jeremy catches me at 19km. Alex and Olya decide to invite to Hatta Hills some people from the office to run, walk, and enjoy being outdoors.
Our Running Group
Alex and Olya work together and have been part of a running group for five years, with some people leaving the group and some newcomers joining. Our running group is informal, and we encourage others from the office and spouses to join us, regardless of ability, especially when they have the desire and bring positive energy. The goals are to enjoy running, run together, run in local events, and have fun.
It’s Not Always About Running
Our running group also organizes excursions for colleagues and families to other places, where you can take cycles in sand or singletrack, kayak, or hike. Through running, we get to visit lots of interesting areas in UAE, like Mleiha and Fossil Rock. Recently we took a group of twenty colleagues and families to experience sand dunes for the first time. Since it’s not recommended to go to the sand dunes without an experienced person, most people from the office never really get to visit the desert first hand. When we get to the desert, we split into two groups: I take the runners for a nice 10km loop up and down the sand dunes, while Olya leads the trekkers on a pleasant hike up Fossil Rock. Afterwards, we visit the Mleiha Archeological Museum, because of the awesome brekkie at the adjoining café.
Initiator, Implementer, and Positive Attitude
Taking a group from the office out to a running event or just an excursion in the desert requires a few basic things. You need the initiator of the plan to pique the interest of colleagues who want to spend a weekend outdoors. The initiator is usually the person responsible for the concept to ensure that the event matches the desires and abilities of the group. Somebody must implement the plan and organize the schedule, budget, announcements, bus, food, water, and coordinate with venue or event. A positive attitude helps put all these elements together, so that your colleagues and their families can have a safe and enjoyable experience outdoors in the UAE. Besides enjoying a fun weekend adventure, these events can be wonderful ideas for future team-building events, like trekking in the mountains in RAK! ■
Words + Photos by: David O’Hara