When I took my trip around the world in 2010, my goal was to run five races around the world to raise money for education and grassroots projects. You may recall (or not, depending on how long you’ve been reading this blog) that I ran two marathons just three weeks apart on my trip. I ran the Rome Marathon two weeks into the start of my trip in Italy and then ran the Dead Sea Marathon in Jordan. Three weeks does not give much time to recover but I figured I would at least still be in shape to run it. Plus, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth and who doesn’t want to say that they’ve run to the lowest point on Earth? It sounded like fun. The race also raises money to assist needy neurological patients so I was running for yet another good cause.
While I was visiting the coastal town of Aqaba in Jordan, two girls that were staying at my guesthouse saw me running on the stretch of road that goes to the Saudi Arabian border. One from South Africa and the other from England, they were teachers at an international school in Amman and would also be running the Dead Sea race (one ran the 10k and the other ran the half). They invited me to stay with them in Amman, so we all took a taxi together very early the morning of the race. The marathon started at 7 (which in my opinion was too late because we would be running through the desert) but you had to be there by 6 to get bussed to the starting point. As we stopped to drop people at the ultra marathon (50 km) starting point, there were only a handful of people running it! When I was dropped at the marathon starting point, initially I was the only woman running it. Another bus showed up though, and there were probably about 100 participants total in the marathon and about 10 of them women. To give you some perspective, thousands of locals were running the 10k and the half, yet there were only about a hundred in the marathon. I was quite surprised.
Since there were so few running the marathon, it spread out pretty quickly and I felt like I was running solo through the desert with the occasional bedouin and his herd en route.
The first 15 miles of the race were downhill. I knew that a good portion of the race would be downhill. But, I never gave it much thought when training. I learned my lesson as you will soon find out! I had to go to the bathroom around mile seven, right about the time when the first ultra marathoner caught up to me. I went behind a barricade thinking that I was nicely shielded from the runners coming downhill… that is until an ambulance decided to drive up the closed side of the street and I nearly got caught! Running down the mountain, there were stunning views of the surroundings and it was beautiful.
I rehydrated at the halfway point and continued on. I got a pretty bad case of food poisoning in Dana just a week earlier, and at mile 21, the heat really started to get to me. My first two marathons, I never stopped to walk, but this time, I had to walk for a bit. It’s also mid-morning at this point so it’s really hot out! Since the race had staggered starting points, the half marathoners and 10k runners had already run past these aid stations, and they were out of water the last few miles.
Finally, about two miles from the end, a man on a four- wheeler brought water to those of us on the course near the finish line.
I gulped down some water and ran the remainder of the way to the finish. Unlike the Chicago or Rome Marathon, the Dead Sea Marathon was anti climactic. There were no cheering crowds, and when you stepped across the finish line, no one really cared. Luckily, I was happy to give myself a pat on the back!
The Dead Sea Marathon provided nice medals for finishers and an efficient system for bussing people back to town. Since I had been to the Dead Sea just a few days earlier, I didn’t stay long before heading back to Amman. I was sore, hot, and tired.
Before I had reached the finish, I could already feel some muscle soreness in my quads. That is definitely not a good sign to feel pain before the race is even over. I can say, without a doubt, that I’ve never been so sore in my life as I was the day after the Dead Sea Marathon. I couldn’t sit down without bracing myself with my hands first. I could slowly walk upstairs, but I could not even walk down one flight of stairs in my friend’s apartment building, I had to take the elevator to go down. Seriously- one flight of stairs- couldn’t do it. I was beyond sore. If I had given it any thought, I would have trained to run downhill more. But I just figured downhill would be just as easy, if not easier than running a flat surface. And, while I was running downhill, since it wasn’t too steep of a decline, it was quite nice. But, oh how I felt it after!!
If you are into running marathons and can withstand a bit of heat, I highly recommend the Dead Sea Marathon. It’s really beautiful, for a good cause, and few people actually run the full marathon so there’s ample room on the course. They might run out of water, but it’s better than the half marathon I did a few months later in Rwanda where they were out of water at mile two!
Have you ever run a marathon? Or better yet, do you have any future race suggestions for me?