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.

الوحدة و التوحيد

حين تقرر أن تدخل اختبارا وتحديا صعبا باختيارك وليس فرضا عليك فعادة ما يكون تحديا للنفس قبل أن يكون منافسة لأحد، وحين يصبح ذلك الاختبار تحديا للجسد و النفس و العقل فذلك ما يكون الأصعب.

وحينما تكون في ذروة الاختبار تدرك معاني كثيرة قد تنساها في خضم الاحداث اليومية.

يوما بعد يوم تفكر ما هي أولوياتك وما هي الحياة وكيف نعيشها ويوما بعد يوم أشعر بأهمية إدراك أننا حين سنموت سندفن فرادا وسنلقى الله فرادا وسنحاسب فرادا.

أدرك يوما بعد يوم ان قاعدة “لا تنتظر المقابل” هي قاعدة إن أدركتها قد تريح بالك و قلبك، اعطي ولا تنتظر، تحرك في حياتك وفق ضميرك ولا تنتظر.

نلتقى بآلاف الأشخاص في حياتنا و لا يبقى منهم في قلوبنا إلا القليل، بل أن من يبقى منهم قد يختار احيانا أن يرحل عنا باختياره، و من يبقى بجوارنا قد يختار أن لا يشاركك نفس المشاعر، و قد لا يلقى المرء طوال حياته من يبادله نفس الشعور.

يوما بعد يوم ادرك ان رياضة العدو للمسافات الطويلة هي كما الحياة، فأنت الذي عليك ببذل المجهود و ليس شخص آخر، أنت من ستفور في النهاية و ليس شخص آخر, أنت من عليك بمنافسة نفسك لأنك لو فعلت غير ذلك, ستسقط لأنك لم تخلق مثل من تنظر إليه, و كل ميسر لما خلق له, عليك بتحديد هدفك أنت, و خطتك أنت, و طريقك أنت و سرعتك أنت.

حين تجري لساعات وحيدا لا تسمع سوى صوت أنفاسك وآلام جسدك وضربات ارجلك على الأرض تدرك التشابه الذي يقترب إلي التماثل بين الحياة و الجري.

أجري وحيدا وأدرك أهمية تعلم الشعور بالوحدة على الأرض و عدم التعلق و ادراك معنى التوحيد و التعلق بالخالق, فهل نتعلم أم سننسى عند انتهاء الاختبار؟

Here is The Complete Story – Part 3 – The Event

 

Thursday night, we went to get our race numbers, t-shirts and bags. Friendly atmosphere and a smooth experience. There was live music at Abu el Tig El Gouna Piazza and a free Koshary dishes served by the organizers themselves.

They explained the route, rules and instructions for tomorrow’s big event.

The race started the next day exactly as planed 7:15 am. They prepared the cameras the Hasaballah band and it was a perfect start.

Every 3k there was a water stop, every 4k refreshment stop where you can grab a banana or dates, medical stops and toilets were available through the route.

Live entertainment was there every few kilometers, a guy playing rock music on a hill with his guitar loud and clear, clowns round the corners, a couple of drums every now and then.

Photographers and video directors were there too, and to top it, young children wearing race t-shirts cheering as you approach the finish line.

To be honest I was expecting a nicer scenery route, specially that the race is held in El Gouna, I expected running by the water and through the golf courses, but in fact most of the route was through the desert.

But I expect that it wasn’t possible because of security concerns for passing through the different hotel properties.

Finish line was very well prepared as you expect from any international race.

The after race party was superb, live music by HOH, Hany Adel and Hany el Daqaq.

Bottom line, excellent job by the CairoRunners team, thank you.

 

 

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”.

Downtown Here I Come Again

A couple of weeks ago I ran my first 10k and accomplished one of my dreams by running downtown Cairo, I went through Tahrir Sqaure passing through Talaat Harb Street than the 26 of July Street turning right into Mohamed Farid and out through Mohamed Mahmoud Street.

Last week I made my first 12k and instead of getting back through Mohamed Farid, I extended to Opera Square and back through El Sheikh Rihan Street. Actually I was planing 11k but while I am preparing to go down and run my wife told me didn’t you say you should do 12k today ? I said, well I didn’t say this but will see and I did finish the 12k.

Downtown Cairo early morning is one of the most beautiful places to run in Egypt, as it’s one of the fewest neighborhoods in Cairo that actually has pavements for pedestrians. Listening to Bob Marley, Nirvana and all your nostalgic songs gives the run a great mood and a very different perspective on the old streets names background, which are full of historic events and stories.

Tomorrow is another big day for me inshallah, I need to make  14 or 15k, as I am training for my first half marathon in El Gouna on the 10th of February.

I will need to make a 9k spin in downtown and 3k back and forth in and out of tahrir.

Honey Should I bring a Lubricant?

Yes, dear you should. You will read about it in running magazines and wonder, what are they talking about? Why should I buy a “Vaseline” box for lubrication ?

If you have a high BMI or when you start to increase your mileage you will definitely need one. You will start to feel burning sensation in areas where frictions is at most and you might get some foot blisters as well. It’s different from person to person and from foot to foot, I usually get in my right foot, probably because its larger than the left so its fits the shoe in a more or less tight way.

So, when you feel the burn, next time know the areas that hurt most and lubricate before you go for the run, it’s going to hit you in the perineum, feet and the nipples, yes you read it right, its nipples, and god know where else. Enjoy the ride.

Oh, Dear God Give Me that Drug IV

2 weeks ago, I took a life course changing decision, I attended one of those last meetings where you want to finish it and just go. Wasn’t quite an easy decision, wasn’t the end I expected, I guess it happens many times that you take unexpected turn into a path that your never thought you have taken. To be honest to yourself too, most of the times it is those unexplained decisions that turns out to be right at the end. When you follow your gut, it is usually based on days or even months of brain calculations that happens without you even noticing.

At this moment of my life critical path I felt I just wanted to run and celebrate, run and feel sorrow, run and think ahead and run from the past to the future. There is nothing on earth that stays still, everything is moving, people, money, emotions etc. and you shouldn’t also stand still for too long, move forward.

I sought therapy in running, running as a drug for hope and despair, drug for stress and weeping a drug that gives joy, pleasure, and hope.