When Jack asked me if I wanted to do the Wadi Bih run back in September I didn’t give much of a second thought to saying yes – it was next year after all, loads of time to get prepared.
I have never been much of a runner per se. To be honest, I find running for hours a little boring. I will always choose a high intensity workout rather than an hours long jog. It’s far more effective for fat loss and also, much more interesting. Nevertheless this was a competition and a new challenge so I was in.
However, January crept up very quickly as did the 4-week countdown to the run…
What is the Wadi Bih run?
It’s a relay race broken up into 24 stages – 12 of which you are heading up a mountain, 12 of which you are going down. You have a team of 5 and each stage is roughly 1.5 – 4.5 km long, totalling 72 km.
Well of course that’s dependent on the team, but generally – complete the run as quickly as possible!
- One girl minimum in the team.
- Completion of 10km minimum per person.
- 4 runners to complete the first and last legs together (1.7 km each)
Apart from this, you can divide up the distances whichever way you like and it’s game on!
How it works:
The first solo runner begins and the team jumps into the car heading to the checkpoint to park up. You will generally always pass your running team member at least once during their leg so you can guarantee a ringing echo of car beeps and applause to keep you going – always appreciated! The next runner will be getting ready at the checkpoint so it’s a clean and quick changeover of the baton as soon as you reach them. This cat and mouse chase continuous up and down the mountain.
We started the race at 6.30am after a 2-hour drive to Oman. It’s not the easiest thing to fuel up at 4am but as soon as you get there, the atmosphere is electric and adrenalin is pumping. I’m incredibly competitive by nature but the true competition here isn’t with the other teams, it’s with yourself and your mind. How far can you push yourself?…How fast can you go?….How long can you go for? Anyone can cover a 3 km distance, but it’s whether you tackle that distance with everything you’ve got, even when it really hurts with only yourself to push you on. Trust me, doing a 3K run – cooling down for 45 minutes – and then getting up to do it again and again isn’t easy! On top of the 2 runs at the beginning and end of the race, I did 2 solo legs up the mountain and 1 on the way down. My unlucky number drawn as a kid was a bad back, I’ve had 2 operations to fuse discs in my lower spine so safe to say, I’ve never been too keen on running because of the impact it creates. For me it meant downhill was more of a challenge because of the increased power.
There’s one part of the race that is an absolute killer named, ‘the hill’. It’s section 10–11 and it’s a 3K climb up the steepest part of the mountain. I cannot tell you how never-ending this climb seems. Most people tag in so that the leg is broken up with two or more runners but we decided not to and it was a hell of an achievement for our boy who did it – very proud to say he is also my partner, well done ;)
It’s difficult to put into words the feeling you get from running through untouched mountains. Their vast spread is all you can see for miles and you run with the sunrise leaving behind the shadows. It’s utterly picturesque for any photographer but to be competing in this environment, I have never felt such a connection with my feet and the ground. It’s back to basics and I absolutely loved it. Reaching the top of the mountain gives an incredible sense of achievement and realisation for how breathtaking the world we live in is, and most importantly how lucky everyone was to be able to compete that day. I think this is what makes this day so unique and why thousands of people travel to take part.
The hardest part mentally for me was in fact the way back down – you give it everything you have to get up that mountain as fast as you can and as soon as you reach the top, it’s another 3 hours of running downhill. The guys and girls in my team, Richard, Jamie, Jack and Felicity were all incredibly supportive and most importantly – pushed themselves to the limit at every point. You can’t help but be in awe of people who do that.
It’s an outstanding event, a brilliant and testing challenge on your body and mind and utterly addictive. I’m aching and tired but already counting down the days to next year. It really brings home the message that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Challenging yourself with these sorts of competitions is a brilliant way to teach your body that it can go that one step further and your mind is stronger than you think. As one of my favourite quotes goes – ‘The task ahead of you is never greater than the strength within you’.
We finished 45th out of 214 teams and completed the 72Km in 6.06 hours. Next year we’ll be sub 6 and top 30. Very proud to be part of ‘Catch Bih if You Can’. See you next year Wadi Bih.