Last Saturday, the ultramarathon scene finally, quietly, reached the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There was no fanfare and certainly no media coverage at this first organized footrace of more than marathon length. The course involved 50 kilometers of dirt, sand, gravel, and rocks in the hills northeast of Jeddah. An amazing group of more than 100 people showed up, including solo runners, relay teams, and many competing in a concurrent mountain bike race on the same course. My hat is off to the organizer Fabrice and all the volunteers who made this historic event possible.
So, without further ado, here are the top 10 signs that you may be running in the Hejaz 50 Ultra:
- You arrive at the starting line 20 minutes before the race starts – and you’re the first one there.
- The race starts half an hour late. Nobody is upset or surprised.
- There are more sheep than people on the course. Not all the sheep are alive.
- After 15 kilometers, you get passed by women running with headscarves and long, baggy pants.
- You’re running in a severe sandstorm in the middle of nowhere. On purpose.
- At the start of the race, your competitors are all different colors. By the end, they are all the same: sand-brown.
- After 40 kilometers you discover that you can still sprint, thanks to the adrenaline rush of being chased by angry sheepdogs.
- You’re still in a sandstorm. Still running. Still on purpose.
- You arrive at the last water stop to find nothing. Later you learn that it was pillaged by local farmers.
- Nobody is at the finish to get your time. Later, you get an email from the organizers asking you to tell them what your time was.
Oh, and the top sign that you’re running the Hejaz 50 Ultra?
You made several new friends while running 50 kilometers, and can’t wait to do it again next year!
(but maybe without the sandstorm)