Riyadh Road Runners: Taking on the Mother of Hills
By: Stephen Sullivan, MD
Stephen Sullivan was a gastroenterologist and marathoner,
who worked in Saudi Arabia. The following is excerpted from
his unpublished journal, Letters from the Magic Kingdom,
which is a compilation of letters to family and friends
detailing his experiences, in this case on a particularly
painful, but worthwhile, run.
Today was race 13 in the Riyadh Road Runners' seven-month
racing season. The season begins the first week in September
with a fun run and then settles into a schedule of a race
approximately every second week. The only way you
can win is to run every race and place reasonably well every
time. This year, my training partner, Stefan, a crazy
British Polak who has been in Saudi Arabia since sand was
invented, will win it for the second year. Stefan doesn't
take holidays during racing season. Can't risk missing a
... The two best runners missed a few races because of military commitments or being unable to get back from holidays. That is the only reason I won the 10k series with a 1st, a 2nd, and a 3rd. It is also the reason why, if I win the last race of the season next week, I will be tied with a 31-year-old Brit for the club championship (unless our two club speedsters come back). ...
... Peter is the Brit's name and hill running is his game. He just returned from his home in Cornwall where he ran hills to the pub everyday. I think he was homesick. Picture this:
The sun just coming up at 0630 hours when 50 to 60 crazy
expats assemble at the starting line. The tooter sounds and
we're off. Nice flat course, but what is this at 2.5k? The
MOTHER OF HILLS! The grade is 1 in 3 and the 3k mark is
halfway up the "mother-#@#!@." Up out of the wadi and into
the sun, past the turn around and the first water stop at
4.5k. Then down the hill. Hope the brakes don't over heat.
Hey! What's this halfway down the hill? It's the 5k marker!
This is an out and back TWO looper! We've got to go up and
down this "mother-#@#!@" again! That's over two kilometers
of up-and-down "mother." Into a trance. How time passes when
you're having fun. What's this? It's the 10k marker, but why
am I walking by it at 30 minutes? Because it's half way up
the "mother" you fool! What's that on the other side of the
road? The 13k marker where my brakes will burnout in another
12 minutes (if I live so long). Finish line comes by at
57:03 and not a second too soon. Now if the five-miler next
week is on a flat course, maybe I'll be able to catch that
Cornish mountain goat who I could just see a minute ahead
today. Inshallah — God willing!
Now who said I wouldn't be able to run in the Magic Kingdom?
Published with permission of MedHunters.com in 2008.