Celebration Run

As I went to bed late, I didn’t have any clue of how am I supposed to wake up the next day to run early. I did set the alarm to 6 am and thought if I had as strong will to run I would wake up.

5:59 am I woke up without the alarm, didn’t feel strong but the will that woke me up without the alarm need nourishment.

I planned a route two nights before, taking Al-Azhar Street to Salah Salem and back passing by Magra Al Eioun. My friend warned me that it would not be a beautiful run as it seems, as there will be a lot of garbage beside Magra Al Eioun.

I went to the streets without making my mind of which route should I take on coming back. All I had in mind was to run for a long distance in celebration for my 40th birthday. I listened to  Rocky motion picture soundtrack as I passed through downtown, had a pit stop to drink water and continued to Al-Azhar Street.

I took a random left and asked for Al Moez Street, the guy told me right around the corner. Next right I was running between the old mosques and houses watching young couples whispering and old men and women wandering with their eyes listening to the sounds of history. In the middle of the street, I stopped and asked a refreshment shop for a mix of orange and banana juice because of its potassium. Later I walked for a couple of minutes so not to provoke stray dogs then continued my run back to home.

It was a quiet a celebration for me and a challenge, after all, one year ago I was running with a friend four k and was tired. So this year was different, doing 14.6 k on your birthday as a routine was a real achievement for me. Thank you, God, I cannot ask for more.

Embrace Contrast & Break the Barrier

Since the Aswan Half Marathon, held last February, I didn’t exceed the 10k per run.

Last two weeks I had a bad seasonal allergy, and I felt like I never ran before and got a sense of doubt whenever the thought of running came to my mind. It was a strange feeling as I only stopped running for two weeks.

Monday morning, Labor Day vacation, I wasn’t completely cured but I needed to break the status quo, so I took my shoes off for a quick run. I ran an easy six k, didn’t feel strong but I managed to finish comfortably.

The following Friday I had a plan, I wanted to run to Al Moez Street, drink sugar cane juice and come back. I didn’t know exactly the distance, but I knew its more than 10k.

I started around 8 am, a little bit late for a summer run as the sunrise is 5 am, besides the increasing traffic. Crossed Qasr El Nile bridge through Tahrir and Opera and Ataba Square then through Al Azhar street.

It’s remarkable seeing the Egyptians daily life on the streets while running. People were going to their work on Friday, some having breakfast on the foul street cars, sellers in their shops waiting for customers, families going to Al Hussein Mosque while tourists were going to Khan Al-Khalili marketplace.

Imagine this scenery with me running in my phosphoric green shirt and listening to Drake and The Weeknd while cruising through the cars and walking crowds. You have to embrace the contrast and lose yourself to the rich experience.

I stopped for a pit stop at a juice shop, asked for a sugar cane juice and took another small size one after finishing the first large glass. I walked for five minutes in Al Azhar street in order not to be nauseated and later on took some selfies.

After running 7k for a one-way leg it seems obvious that my run would easily pass the 10k barrier I had in my mind post the half marathon race.

Then I thought again, it has never been a physical barrier it was always a mental one. Anything is life will be most of the times only limited by your mental state and your lack of creativity and imagination.

If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve with hard work and planning. Sometimes you will not reach your destination or goal, but at least you will realize a big part of it and in worse case scenarios you or on the way of reaching it. Dying trying is better than sitting and crying.

When your Heart follows Your Mind

Today was our weekly run date, 5:30 am “Sharp” said Amany the team leader last night before we went to sleep.

5:33 am we stared our way to downtown Cairo, showed my Garmin wrist watch.

I tried to catch up with the group pushing my usual pace, witnessing the rising sun while crossing the kasr el Nile bridge is a moment not to be missed. Passing through bab el Louq square you can spot the renovated old buildings with gold paint decorations. Finally I arrived with last few runners at Abdin Palace. Egypt was ruled from this palace starting from 1872 to 1952 and was built by AlKhedwi Ismail Pasha.

We had to take our famous running group selfie before we start our way back to Zamalek.

I usually try to train below zone 5 heart rate training zone which is below 90% of my maximum heart rate, unless I am finishing or in a race, as it is much safer for your heart, muscles and joints.

Today on my way back I found Ibrahim and Safi waiting for me and told me “Today you should finish with us”. At that moment I took the decision and didn’t care much about the heart rate training zones and kept in pace until we reached our starting point. And guess what ? Although I ran at a higher pace my heart rate did not get higher.

While stretching I had a small talk with Ramy, who turned out to be a young doctor and will soon be leaving Egypt to start a residency program in the USA. 

I guess ramy did not want to leave Egypt and probably had another future planned when he entered medical school 8 years ago, but sometimes you have to change the mental state and the heart will follow.

Group Run at 5:30 AM

If anyone told me a couple of months ago, we will meet 5:30 in the morning to run and take some pictures I will definitely say : No thank you, are you crazy ?

Well, I ran today at 5:30 am, took some pictures and I am not crazy, indeed I am an associate university professor who loves to run.

Two weeks ago, I met a Passant, a colleague from work, in Aswan who told me about a running group in Zamalek and that she will invite me to a group run when we go back to Cairo.

Last week, Ibrahim an old friend messaged me and invited me to the Zamalek group and it turns out to be the same group that Shefaa (my old downtown runner friend) told me about.

5:15 I was standing in 26th July street waiting for the group to gather, few minutes later, more than 20 people, women and men, different ages were cruising the streets running and enjoying the sunrise.

We stopped at the beautiful Kasr El Nile street took a celebration picture, acknowledging our humble achievements in Aswan race, new personal records, new first timers and above all celebrating the spirit and perseverance in reaching this far.

Amany the ironwoman and the positive spirit behind this group was distributing magic cookies that were delicious healthy and filled us with power to go back running where we started.

Another amazing woman Cherry, who had a recent injury, joined us by car and woke so early just not to miss this amazing gathering and kept taking pictures and videos of every single one of us.

Another great run and a new start for me, group running.

My Second Half Marathon Aswan42

Once I finished my first marathon, I said: What did I do to myself? Next night I was signing for my second half marathon in Aswan.

After 48 hours of rest I did some cross training on the Elliptical bike followed by stretches.

For the following 3 days I ran 6, 10 and 14 kilometers and then tapered to 5 kilometer 4 days before the race.

48 hours before the race I felt like catching a cold and had some sore throat and generalized leg pain.

Arrived Thursday afternoon to Aswan, checked into the hotel, had a walk on the corniche then ate lunch.

7pm, went for the race registration and attended it’s briefing.

10 pm, bedtime but couldn’t sleep at all, very worried, didn’t feel good and was too excited and anticipating to sleep.

4:45 am, woke up after a disturbed night sleep, took a quick snack and was heading to the race venue at 5:15 am.

It felt quiet crazy walking to the race before the sunrise and thinking of what you are going to throw yourself into, but I felt energetic despite all the fears.

6:15 am the race started, I smoothed into the race with a slow pace and enjoyed the rhythm for the next 10 k. Starting from the 5k mark for each 2.5k I stopped and grabbed a small banana and a sip of water.

My plan was to start to gain momentum in the last 5k, but I started to pull myself from the 10k mark, from that moment I kept improving my pace and passing the runners until I reached the finish line.

Although my time was 5 minutes slower than the previous race, my plan was much better and smarter and it felt good and right to distribute the effort along the race.

It’s better to finish strong and powerful than to finish weak and depleted.

My First Official Half Marathon – Here is The Complete Story – Part 1 – My Race

Until 7 am – 16th of December 2016, my longest run in more than 20 years was my participation in the Pyramiden Lauf 7k race (March 2016).

On that day I decided to participate with Cairo Runners weekly gathering to run for a new challenge for me 8.5K.

On that day a magic moment happened, it’s like breaking a wall or shattering a mental block, I ran very comfortably the whole stretch and making a negative split in each lap.

I went back home thinking, why shouldn’t I sign for the upcoming El Gouna half Marathon ? And I did.

In less than 2 months as you read in my blog I was ready to run my first official Half Marathon. Yes I was running for months and trying to be a regular runner for around 2 years, but I never thought I would cross the 10k so rapidly.

Race night, I woke up 3 hours before the start time and ate 2 bananas and slept again, I was super excited and couldn’t sleep well. It was the big day I have been dreaming about.

6:45 am I was standing in the Abu el Tig El Gouna Piazza, warming up and waiting for the instructions to line up for the start line.

Boom, and the race started, wasn’t feeling in my best shape and I still felt some muscle tightness from my previous exercises.

I tried to keep my pace slow at the start, but I couldn’t as I saw every one passing by, and it ended I ran around 30 to 45 seconds per kilometer faster than my usual pace. I knew it, I read it, but couldn’t apply, never run faster than your pace at the start.

As time passed by, I felt more or less comfortable in my pace, at the 16k, when there was only 5 left, I said to myself it’s time to push more and gain a more faster pace. For an extra 1 k, it felt good passing through runner having this extra energy, then came the expected.

Wind started to blow and a couple of uphill stretches and an extra nagging pain started to hit my usual weak point, the right foot and the pace dropped south.

I tried to apply what I read somewhere before, try to accept the pain as it is part of the journey, and if you succeed to love it, nothing will stop you then. I shouted from pain, I searched for cheering claps and uproar noises to soothe it.

2 kilometers to go, some nice gentlemen from the cheering crowds jogged beside me for encouragement, so I picked some pace.

Last kilometer was running through the marina alone, and it felt like the party was over, no crowds, just a couple of kids and the organizing committee showing you the way to the final stretch for the finish line.

Suddenly you find yourself crossing the finish line and getting the medal for finishing.

It felt Amazing. Thank You CairoRunners

 

 

 

Hope for the Wind

Friday’s training was to run 10k, my final long run before the half marathon next week. Hesham my friend called in the morning and apologized for not running with me.

Of course I had second thoughts, should I go or just rest today ? Especially that we were supposed to run in Wadi Degla and I only ran their once and I might get lost.

I said to myself, it’s these circumstances that build perseverance and champs, I will go.

Arrived 8:15 am, It’s a sunny beautiful Friday. Let’s start.

After 500m the phone rang and it’s made an error in my Bluetooth connected fitness band, so I needed to start again.

The first 3k was almost always uphill and the wind was blowing against me. Last May I experienced a similar wind blow and it really messes up with your pace and it needs much extra effort to overcome it.

A wind is a bless or curse, it prepares you to be able to run in any weather condition however it drains your power unless you keep a lower pace in order to balance the extra resistance.

I did not know the trail map nor had any idea where to run, I just ran following any signs that showed that someone passed from here before.

I kept running until the trail took a turn and the wind started to blow in my back and here where the fun begins. It’s just like in real life, when you feel that the circumstances around you works in your favor, because god made it easier to you (someone would call it luck). You feel like a hand pushing your back and you are going downhill too, it was much much fun than my way up. It pays when you work hard.

At 5k I felt let like, “Let us make today 7k only” but after taking the downhill part and reaching the 6k I felt very strong and just getting warmed up, so I took a left turn and tried a different trail.

On reaching the 8k I decided to go back and I needed to open the google maps while running just to know my direction in the desert and I managed to finish 9.5 down to the gates so I made an extra 250 meters back and forth to finish 10k easily.

When I think about how I finish strong and my thoughts in the morning of skipping the run or my thoughts of how it’s hard to run against the wind or just to accept second goals like 7k, I realize day after day that running is life you choose how to finish it.

 

A Full Circle of Guilt & Pleasure

Thank god, I feel much better than expected after finishing the 21k, I followed the same routine of recovery: Immediate stretching, good hydration, cold water immersion, adequate healthy food, compression stock, adequate sleeping.

I did not get the back pain this time, but I did get some quadriceps pain specially at the insertion, but it’s bearable. I can’t run, but can walk comfortably.

When I woke up in the morning and thought about running, I said to myself: “Not Again”, it’s like the body feels the pain and saying “Why did you do this to me ?”, it felt like the guilt in the morning that follows sometime a forbidden pleasure.

Although the guilt is only a message from the body to the brain, but at the same time it still feels the pleasure, and you know it’s only hours and you will feel the need to get the dose before the pleasure fades.

I guess I will need to get used to these “Guilt & Pleasure” cycles.

My First 21k Half Marathon

At night I had the same feelings that I had when I did my first 10k one month before, restless and woke up at 4am drank water and slept again and woke up at 6am.

It is quiet amazing how a passion or strong will makes you change your lifestyle without having a second thought.

When I called the elevator to go downstairs, I wished it did not come so fast, because I knew what’s waiting for me, a couple of hours of work.

I started a good start, was well prepared mentally and took 8 dates in small pack inside my pocket as advised by Salah. He also told me to make pit stops for water at any drinking fountains found in front of many buildings, so not to carry any water bottles.

At the 3k I was already warmed up and needed to take of one of the extra layers I was wearing and tied it around my waste.

I met Salah at 4 mark he ran with me for a couple of minutes and said he will meet me again on the way back.

At the 5k mark I stopped for 5 seconds to take a sip of water and continued, I made another 2 stops at the 13 and 18k. I tried to distribute the dates evenly every 5k.

Again I met Salah at the 16k and for the next 3k I made an extra effort and raised my pace which was very useful. It improved my total time and gave me more trust in my body and not to be afraid later on to raise the heart rate a little bit, as I noticed after a few minutes of the “high heart rate” alarm, it drops again in more comfortable zone.

We did saparate at the 19k mark and I continued the next 2 alone, arrived home at the 20k and needed to do extra 0.5 back and forth to complete the 21k. Need to mention that it was Salah who told me to try the 21k before El Gouna to be more comfortable on the race day, thank you Salah.

Well, here it is “I finished my first 21k, I am a half marathon finisher”, yes it needs dedication,work and perseverance, but it all lies in the head. Anything is possible, I feel “unstoppable today” like Sia says and unbeatable. Thank God “الحمد لله”.

 

 

It’s Tough

Although I woke up a little bit late I had to do what I had to do and run 14-15k. Wore my compression stocks, took for the first time a bottle of water in my hand and a small pack of nuts in my pocket.

After 3 k entered downtown Cairo and as usual was ecstatic gazing at the buildings while listening to music.

I needed to finish at least 8k inside downtown to head back home for another 3k, I followed more or less a random route guided by the random pedestrians  green traffic lights and it went fine.

Every one kilometer I took a small sip of water and at 5 and 10 k I ate my nuts bar. Eating and drinking during running went just fine and I guess its better in recovery.

The last 4 k were really difficult, heart rate kept in oscillating to zone 5 although I took notice and kept my pace much slower.

Finally, I finished my first 14.5k at my home.

Classically you shouldn’t add more than 10% of mileage per week, I have to admit I really did over do it in the last couple of weeks to enter the half marathon held in El Gouna next February, well don’t do this to yourself. This run was tough and afterwards I felt “I don’t recommend J”.