Weekender Bahrain, Saturday, December 14 2019

Running Wild in Al Areen

admin 16-Mar-2017

Running Wild in Al Areen

I finally completed my bucket list of Triple Crown medals organised by the Bahrain Road Runners (BRR) after running in the Nando’s Al Areen Wildlife and Reserve 10km Run in a time of just over 75 minutes.

When I wanted to do this (last season) I had already completed the Cross Island Run and Half Marathon, but had missed out on the Al Areen Run.

It had been more than 20 years since I last visited the Wildlife Park and it was quite an eye-opener seeing the wildlife not far from the entrance and reception area in the park, which originally opened in 1976 and covers an area of seven square kilometres almost equally divided between the park and reserve.

One can see, camels, ostriches, Arabian sheep and Flamingos, among other animals and birds and for the children rides on Shetland ponies. As the build-up to the main race began, hundreds of us witnessed the junior runners aged from five to 15 years of age taking part in a mini run and all were congratulated as they crossed the finish line.

I started the race too quickly and felt a small problem in my right knee early on and initially was limping my way through, thankfully after around a kilometre the problem seemed to subside as I got into some sort of a rhythm, hearing a fellow runner huffing and puffing much in the same way as myself.  The lady in question was 66-year old Louise Nesterenko from Calgary, Alberta in Canada, who with her husband Bill aged 71 were visiting Bahrain to see their son Nick and all three took part in the race.

After negotiating the first couple of kilometres, both myself and Louise inspired each other and ran the race together, we developed a strategy of running around 100 to 150 steps and then walking the equivalent and then both of us would start the process again.

“Aidan came up with the idea of short walks and runs and it worked out as we saw the distance to the finish dwindling by each kilometre, which made the both of us more determined to complete the course, “said Louise.

My running partner Louise told me along the route that she was not really into long distance running and when she was younger, her interest was into field events such as discus and shot putt. Along the way we passed various enclosures, which housed animals such as Addax (antelope), monkeys and ostrich, it was also nice seeing the natural environment and the acacia trees and other species that have been introduced and thrive throughout the reserve.

The course had its ups and downs; at times the terrain went downhill which was great and the uphills were a tad more difficult. As we got nearer the finish, Louise and I started to tire, we encouraged and urged one other on and pushed to the limit to finish the run.

“I ran the race and saw Bill my hubby was way ahead of me, I could see my son not so far ahead in the run, but the last two kilometres were tough. It was great to finish though and we congratulated ourselves and clapped the other finishers in,” said Louise.

Crossing the finish line

As a partner in running, Louise and I completed the race and out of respect I let her complete the run ahead of me as we crossed the finish line. It was a truly memorable experience and one I will treasure for life.I am sure if I hadn’t stopped so many times along the way for a photographic record, my time would have been five or even 10 minutes faster, though I just enjoyed having someone else to run with, as I have experienced in the past (going back more than 30 years) that running on your own over these distances and longer ones such as half and full marathons is not fun!

During the run, I was expecting to come across some wildlife such as an ostrich or two, but no such luck came to me though. This run is quite unique to my knowledge as the park only allows visitors to race through it for the BRR event and the Ironman 70.3 Middle East Challenge.

Former BRR chairman Mustafa Fulad came up with the idea of the run back in late 2003, he explained, “I approached my friend Dr Ismael Madani, General Manager of the Park about having a race, at first he was reluctant but then agreed with the instruction that we don’t disturb the animals and keep the place tidy.”

Recalling setting up the course in early 2004, Fulad said, “Ali Asghar and myself started organising the route and we went too close to the ostriches and they charged us, probably thinking we were going to steal eggs and had to make a hasty retreat and jump in a security vehicle for our safety.”

“I am pleased that this race is still taking place in a lovely environment and aside from running through a wildlife park, the open day for visitors and runners also allows the public to see the animals and generates plenty of business as well,” said Fulad.

For the record, Abdellatif Ait Hsine (31.38 minutes) and Marine Gabana (44:27) won the men’s and women’s overall categories which attracted around 400 runners including 140 junior runners age from 5 to 15 years and participated by both Bahraini and expatriate communities from many countries around the globe with all participants presented with a medal at the finishing line.

Current vice chairman of the BRR, Mohsin Al Sharif said, “It was a fantastic turn out for all in this annual event on our calendar and especially seeing so many youngsters taking part and we welcome more in future events.”