Final preparations began the afternoon before the Wadi Bih race. Assembling in the NYUAD dining hall, trays stacked with burgers and pasta, runners signed the necessary forms and carbo-loaded while listening to pre-departure speeches by NYUAD coaches Wayne Young and Peter Dicce. There wasn't much in the way of tension — there was still a four-hour drive to Oman to contemplate the race — and, sitting with my teammates, the Wadi Bih run seemed like it was miles away. It wasn't until we woke up the next morning and started running that we realized just how many miles that was.
NYUAD's five teams — Team Bih Ready, the Quikfoots, the NYUAD Campus Lifers, the RA-nners, and the Karabanauts — each with five runners, travelled to Dibba in Oman later that day. After a fair few hours, arriving on the beach at the other end was certainly surreal. We unpacked our dinner and sat out on the sand overlooking the Gulf of Oman. With the stars shining up above and the waves lapping at our feet, we definitely felt a long way from home. And even though the campfire was lit, the lack of marshmallows and an acoustic guitar meant that we all turned in early; the alarm clocks were set for just after 5am, and we wouldn’t be getting much rest the next day for sure.
The next morning, cold and stiff after a night in the open air out on the sand, we rallied after a quick breakfast, pulled on our team uniforms, and headed over to the starting line. It was still dark, and none of us knew what exactly the terrain would look like. We'd been told it would be tough, and we'd seen the gradient measurements, so knew there were some steep climbs ahead. But for now it was all fun and games — the Karabanauts with their unfortunately tight shorts and brightly colored socks; Team Bih Ready, with their homemade t-shirts replete with nicknames ("Sir Walter Relay"); and even the Quikfoots' bright yellow gear. We queued up, the stopwatch went, and then we were off, baton in hand.
One learns a lot from a run like this, much more than how fast or how far you can go. You learn what it takes to push yourself and to motivate others, and to take that drive wherever you go in life.
The run was a relay of sorts, with the 72-kilometer route leading to the high point of the Wadi Khabb Shamsi road, where the runners then turned and ran back down to the beach. Checkpoints were placed every 2 to 4 kilometers, at which the baton was passed and the previous runner met the support vehicle, stretched out, piled in the back of the truck with the rest of the team, and was driven to the next checkpoint, where the process was repeated. Again and again and again. This was a hard run. The hills were steep, the ground was uneven, and there was dust blown up by all the support vehicles driving by, heading to the next checkpoint to wait for their own runners, who were behind us and gaining fast.
But we couldn't complain. At the top of the Wadi the scenery was nothing short of stunning. With canyons hewn out of the rock by water running through them over thousands of years, the scale is epic. And despite the final climb up to the peak being excruciatingly brutal, we managed it as a team. This was a run for teams. You learned what each runner needed — when they needed that encouraging shout out the window, when they needed to be pushed, and when they needed a break. And there was nothing more satisfying than stumbling over the finish line, being surrounded by four good friends, knowing that we just ran 72 kilometers and ran them well.
Congratulations to the five teams, all of whom completed the race and put in impressive times. One learns a lot from a run like this, much more than how fast or how far you can go. You learn what it takes to push yourself and to motivate others, and to take that drive wherever you go in life.