Running for My Freedom

Whenever someone asked me, why did you tone down your political activities ? I answered: I am now happy and running.

I really felt running as a therapy one day, but I never saw the direct relation between running and freedom.

One friend noticed the direct relation in my case, between feeling trapped with limited abilities to change things to better in my country and running.

Yes I am running for my freedom, I am running to feel free, it’s the only way I feel free now. It’s the time where I have my own time and my own conversation with myself. Wake up early, listen to whatever you choose in your headphones or just listen to yourself and just run, no special equipment needed, just run. No team needed, no coordination with someone, just run. Choose your preferred time and place and just run.

I run from my destiny and to my destiny, I run and I know my starting point and my end point that I choose, but I also feel that I run in a grand map already drawn by god.

 

Lessons Learned from my First Official Half Marathon

1- Don’t exceed your usual pace specially at the start of the race.

2- When you adjust to your comfortable running pace keep going and you may increase your pace as times go by and as you approach the final kilometers.

3- Don’t look behind you, keep focusing, you are racing against yourself only.

4- Don’t judge people by their look and try to relate it with their pace.

5- Drink a sip of water every couple of kilometers.

6- Take small banana piece or a couple of dates every around 5 kilos and don’t over do it.

7- Wear very comfortable cloths that you tried in your previous training.

8- Try to sleep early on the race night

9- If you find a running partner, you will run faster.

10- Listen to your body if you feel tired slow down.

11- Don’t hang much in your maximal heart rate zone and slow down as early as possible, unless you are at the end of the race.

12- Imagine your finish line for encouragement.

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.

 

 

My First Official Half Marathon – Here is The Complete Story – Part 2 – Emotional Breakdown

When you love someone or something, sometimes you don’t have explanations for your behaviors towards your love, but here are some enlightenments of what happened before, during and after the race.

Just before the race started, I had a one very short moment of tears in my eyes, maybe it’s the happiness for finally standing to start what you have been preparing for the last couple of months, maybe I had a short glimpse of the finish line, I don’t know.

While running I had a sense of euphoria that poured tears in my eyes and made my breath shallow and difficult to take but I didn’t mind at all, it’s like meeting the love you waited for so long.

I had another attack when I fought pain at the end, people were trying to boost me up and I was trying to hide my pains and trying to love my journey.

My complete breakdown came at the end, while I am approaching the finish line, you should have seen my face, trying like a kid to hide his cry for losing his love while passing by his friends.

I took a moment by myself and tried to understand what happened and trying to pour what started, but it wasn’t crying, it was some sort of euphoria that breaks into tears and continued as I hugged my wife.

I felt on that day as a man who got his PHD, as man who survived a crashing plane, a real life changing experience.

The next night I signed up for my next race, but I couldn’t sleep afterwards, had a couple of hours of emotional distress, but now I am OK.

I told you, it’s like love, so get ready for some emotional bumps during your journey.

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 Better Recovery

This is what happened after the 16K trail run. In comparison to the week before 14.5k, I finished this run stronger. I relate this to better eating the night before. Many athletes talked about Carb Loading, which is basically eating a lot of carbs the week or at least the night before your long run, mainly pasta. Other athletes revoked such an idea and talked about just having their regular healthy dinner and avoiding and spices or extra fibers.

I chose to eat a lot of pasta the night before the long runs, and to hydrate good while running and to be mentally prepared for the run, and the latter from my point of view is more important than sleeping well, as one night restless sleep will not ruin your run.

After finishing the run and driving back home I immersed my legs into cold water for 5 minutes, again there are different opinions regarding this technique of recovery, some say drinking and eating right and wearing compression stockings is just enough. I did all of this.

The next day, I felt pain in the upper back, maybe due to bad running form or weak muscles or maybe I am not yet accustomed to such long runs, anyways it just felt better than the week before. Which means your body can get accustomed to anything with training and following the proper techniques.

The following day I did a nice 5k recovery run, which also went better than the previous recovery runs of the past weeks, and it felt good.

Today I took a rest, ate good and preparing for my next challenge tomorrow isa, 21k as advised by my friend Salah. Pray for me.

 

 

Trail Running

One great thing about being and newbie runner is that many experiences are a first timer. Yesterday was my first trail running.

The plan was to meet my friend Hesham and run 16k in Wadi Degla, I woke up 6:30 am on Friday, which is by it self a great achievement. There was a light rain while driving and I discovered that I got 25% only of my phone battery left. No problem, I’ll put it into airplane mode to save battery and be able to listen to music while running.

Hesham invited his freind Salah an ultramarathoner to join the run. We started around 8am.

I ran beside Salah who kept nicely giving me instructions on running form,tip and tricks and I kept asking and listening like a sponge.

The trail had many uphills and downhills and I even fell while going down one but thank god I did not hit a stone of which the ground is full off.

Hesham gave me a nutrition gel to try while running, I think it gave me a nice placebo energy boost.

There is a nice scenery while running, it’s basically a desert for people who like to mediate while running or even walking. I met one of my relatives on a bike in the middle of the trail.

Last 4k I started to gain pace and thank god I finished strong better that the 14.5k of the last week.

We made some stretches, took a selfie and that’s it, another day on my way to El Gouna half marathon.

 

A Week of Recovery

Last Friday I ran 14.5k, well as I said before it was tough, espeially if you are doing it for the first time.

After running I felt sleepy and tired, the next two days I sometimes felt a strange feeling in my head “lightness” some sort of headache can’t explain, wasn’t bad but strange, at night I felt that my head was cold so I wore my beanie at home.

After 72h I felt normal again, I guess it was the asphalt pounding through the spine into the head that made me feel this way the days before.

The 4th day I ran 6k which consisted of 2k warm up and 4 x 800 short tempo and 200 walking.

On the 5th day I ran and walked with my kids for 4-5 k, and it was a very nice experience, I wish they start to love running like I do.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to hit a new mark in Wadi Degla, pray for me.

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”.