Once upon a time, in a magnificient country called Kuwait, that doesn't have anything but oil and certainly no marathon, I saw a post about the 642 marathon on a blog. And hell yeah, I decided to sign in, since there is absolutely-almost-never-not even one- running event organized in the country. Actually there are a few, but to my vast knowledge, they're all crap, expensive and not well organized.
With that being said, I went on the pro vision (organizers) website and paid the 20 KWD (70 US $) registration fee 2 months before the race would start and I trained intensively in Vietnam and Thailand, but that's another story (see Thailand UltraMarathon).
Mission number 1: Find gels and electrolytes in Kuwait! -Accomplished-
The hardest thing for an expat/runner living in Kuwait would be to find some sports nutrition that does not include protein shakes or protein shakes. Seriously though, what is wrong with this country? I've seen more protein shakes here then Mcdonalds per square meter. And trust me, unlike Iraq, McDonalds has succeeded in invading every corner of Kuwait.
I visited all possible malls in Kuwait only to find zero calorie bars that contained at least 18 grammes of protein. Not exactly what I needed huh.. Finally, and after visiting the race HQ a day before race start, my eyes popped out of my skinny face. The holy gral was standing there, on some mobile shop from "Extreme Sports". Yes you know it, unlimited GU gels and electrolytes. I rushed and bought some dozens of this precious little calorie filled plastic packet and some boxes containing 12 electrolyte tablets each. And as I painfully realized during the race, I did need the electrolytes. Explanation: running 42 k under 30 degrees Celsius is draining enough salt out of your body for you to become a premium supplier for La Baleine (french salt brand).
Mission number 2: Find race HQ -Accomplished-
So Pro vision, the small event company that organizes all this, sends you an e-mail 3 days before the race would start, telling you to come to the race HQ in order to get your BIB number. The only location mentioned in the mail with no other detail was a 50.000 sq. meter mall (Souq Sharq). So what's up with that Pro vision ? I walked half an hour passed every store in the mall, thinking there would be some stand somewhere or that they might be big enough to have a shop in the mall. But no. I wasted half an hour, before I realized it was outside, on the hidden side (not even the side you enter from). Seriously, there was only one line to add to that e-mail.
Mission number 3: The actual race -Accomplished in 3.43'21'' with a 6th position-
I was thinking of how best to describe the race and the only adjective coming to mind was "loopy". I appreciate the effort of blocking the roads (something that never happens in Kuwait) but 4 loops within 42 k made me feel like a hamster in a cage.
Km 1-10: 1st loop taking the runners through Souk Mubarkiya (the most authentique souk of the city) was pretty nice and was the highlight of the race. I think they should have finished the race with that but that's only my humble opinion.
I ran those first 10 k at an average pace of 5 minutes per kms (12kms/hour) and raced through the souk where I could see a hundreds of amazed local people. They happened to never have (or very rarely) experienced a race in their city. I forced a smile when I saw the guy in front of me who extended his hand in order to get some high fives from the locals. It turned out they didn't know what to do with it and he took it back probably feeling like a strange potatoe.
Km 11-20: 2nd loop taking the runners on the gulf road, a 3 lane road boardering the sea. I was running on it at a comfortable pace, admiring the beautiful scenery. My muscles were working without complaining, I was hydrating well, and the race organization provided us with oranges and bananas every 2 kilometers. Until now, everything was there for a good and enjoyable marathon.The road was empty and, eventhough, I drove on this road a thousand times, I've never realized how large it was. Running on it felt like nothing was to scale anymore and I constantly had this massive impression all along. It felt like being in a mega city for a bit til the... 3rd loop happened. It was the same loop and you get used to it :(
Km 21-42: 3rd loop and it started to hurt. Km 25, my legs were hurting like 2 steel blocks were pressing them from both sides and at the same time. Running again the same loop didn't help and my mp3 player had died. I felt like shit and I realized it would be hard until the end. I tried to keep the same pace and somehow I managed it for a while, but, it's really at km 35 that my legs started to no longer listen to me. I became a suffering hamster, running in loops and in the heat, whose legs felt like a rusted piece of machinery. My brain was telling me to slow down, my legs were telling me to stop but i knew it was only a phase, or at least, I thought i did. I was constantly telling myself to shut up and run. That the pain would leave and that I could enjoy a beer at the end (Wrong -there is no alcohol in Kuwait-). Infact I was running, trying to master the pain and I would not even have a beer at the end. What the hell was wrong with me ?
It did become better and this was only because I passed 5 other runners that seemed to all have cramps.
- "Well at least you never have cramps!" I thought
And boom! First cramp I've ever had in a race and this 2 kms before the finish line. I stopped, stretched and tried to contain the cramp when I started again. I was slower, running at a remarkable turtle pace, with a knot in my leg that would only become tighter and tighter.
But I did it and I did enjoy a beer but that's another story ;)
So to sum up here are the pros and cons of this race.
- There were enough water/food supplies during the race.
- If your motivation is low, you get to enjoy women running in a Burqa, and that my friend is just hilarious
- Some problem in the organization ahead of the race (mail, location, start delayed...)
- A very loopy course and this is really not nice (although Kuwait has the potential to offer a nice road marathon)
- For 70 US$ you would at least expect a finisher T-shirt but no.
- That's not the fault of the organizers but there is not much of the local population involved in the race. No supporters, no cheering, nothing. So it turns out that the race atmosphere is not very nice. We're light years away from the New York Marathon
Shoes - Skechers Go run 3
Socks - Adidas Barefoot
Hydration bag - Lafuma Speedtrail 5L
Food - GU gels