6 months out from the sands of Arabia, the dust is settling on my return to the Emerald Isle. The week before the season ending 5km, I was informed that my employment may be ending and so the end of my stay had begun. As I said at that night’s pre –race speech, I landed in Saudi Arabia in February 2011, without RRR, I’d have departed in March 2011. Was blessed to meet Marc Krouse on the second day and this was a direct introduction to the club.
My first race was a 30km on ROC Compound, 6 loops of the American owned property. Mukhtar reminded me it was the only race where he beat me!!!!
I was thrown into the mix running my first of 6 marathons with the Club, 14 days later. This event had a total of 40 runners.
That season was completed in the normal fashion before the summer break where my focus was on the next season and in particular the Dublin Marathon in October. The DQ loop was a blessing and despite the heat it was a regular trail run. Back in those days RRR had running groups out on a Thursday Morning. Claes Spong a regular, along with Margo Benning and a group from Salwa Compound.
The new season and a new rival, the one and only JP (Jean-Pierre Berthiaux). Getting the better of him on a 5 miler on Eid Compound (Race #2) definitely touched a nerve. He was irate at this newcomer beating him and not sure what to think, however the friendly banter and a good relationship grew. On that particular season on the second 5 miler, it was a prediction race. The clock was covered, race watches banned, each runner wrote a predicted finishing time pre- race. To my amazement I completed to the exact time 32:40.
The DQ training definitely showed as I completed Dublin marathon in 3:08, 11 minutes quicker than the previous year.
Dubai Marathon in January 2012, RRR sent a strong team of 20, crossed the line 3:05- a stress free run in 96th place with Mo Foustok on 2:52. Liz Laughton, the then Chairperson was the first female home. RRR got 5th place in the team event. The following week I won the 30km in 2:08 at the ROC Compound, a winning margin of 12 minutes. Margo Benning was a great encouragement on the day.
The marathon that year was a tough one in the rising heat. Highlight was getting the better of Gathon, a French national who was extremely competitive. We were together until I let loose at 37km to beat him by 7 minutes. Joined the committee at the end of season party.
Summer again and the DQ, with the same objectives. The famous Camp JP (Third Airport) was a regular outing. Chris Dennison a regular running partner at that time. Dublin went well with a PB 3:03.
A season highlight was getting past Gary McGregor in the marathon. Passing at the 34km mark was a great achievement as he was saying pre- race 3:10 was his target. Another great rival which was in good spirits of course.
My fitness slipped the next two seasons, combination of an excessive work load and life in general. Saying that in 2013, put 7 marathons together. Bahrain Road Runners in February, London and Boston within 8 days of each other, the notable ones. The Boston Bombs and the distress caused will be etched on my mind for ever. The races came and went as the records will show. Working on the committee a real highlight and meeting so many people.
Another highlight was the 5km run at Kingdom Compound in 2014, where for the first lap went toe and toe with “big beard” before breaking him to win by 23 seconds.
People came, departed and some returned, Gary in particular a welcome renewal of the rivalry.
Getting past Gary on the 2014 Dubai at 28km, his only words were, “Cusack you’re a machine”. JP finished 100 metres in front of me, and of course he beat me, the only thing was he started at the front (the exact frontline), I was 31 seconds in the lead, something we discussed on the flight back….. JP was aware that I was close as Richard Slater was shouting my name from the grandstands. JP just looked around at that point. JP was impossible to beat the next season however only getting the better of him once. Last season I beat him each time, something I was aware off entering what was to be my final race (for now at least). JP you’re a legend in my and other people’s eyes and a huge thank you for the memories and training tips.
Then there was Thomas Brackmann, who transformed from a 3:55 Dubai in 2012 into a total different animal. He once told Mukhtar he enjoyed beating me. Thomas I recall you walking up the hill in Dirab not so long ago, see you at a race in the near future, inshallah. Fair play you showed the Iron man mentality.
My nearest and dearest friends Mukhtar & Claudine, “the good woman”. Words cannot describe the contribution and the friendships formed to get through the challenges of the desert. Long may this continue.
Then Chris Nixon, a likeable character, who thrived in the art of running, leading to Chairperson. Getting the better of me at the 10km finishing line in Al Bustan in 2015 was upsetting. Decided to put 30 minutes between us at the Dubai Marathon the following week. Records show it was 31 minutes!!!!!! It took Sandra to settle him down (Dubai 2012 wink wink).
Mo Foustok is someone we all look up to, those DQ runs together really brought me on in leaps and bounds. I recall meeting him early on the run and completing the loop in 1:14, the legs had been stretched just a little. Thanks Mo, congrats on the new arrival.
We lost a former founder Paul McPartland in the summer of 2015, being a fellow Irishman his loss to all 3 Clubs and his contribution will never be forgotten, rest in peace Paul.
Apart from Dubai, there was Abu Dhabi Striders and RAK half marathons, all very enjoyable. The undoubted highlight was Wadi Bih 2016 – a 72km trail run in Oman, with an elevation rise of circa 1300mm. As this was a challenge beyond any limits, Claudine, Pierre and 2 others travelled from Riyadh. The training from October until February was ramped up, with 250km clocked up in January.
The inspiration behind this was Chris Denison, a former Chairperson based in Abu Dhabi. Off we went, camping on the beach for the night, waking up at 3:30 before starting the journey an hour later. The first 2 hours in darkness under the guidance of head torches. Getting to the summit and u turn in 20th place, eventually getting across the line in 11th, 7:27, the idea of resting took on a new meaning. It was as close to putting my life on the line, the direct midday sun for the last 8km a breaker for the best prepared.
Since my return in July, have completed 11 half marathons, 1 of these in Manchester where I up with Mukhtar and Victoria. 5 x 10kms and a 5km. All good fitness tests partly in the lead up to the Chicago Marathon on October 9th. This race arrived too early, with a hectic work schedule, jet lag, turned up at the start line with little motivation and feeling drained. I ploughed on for a 3:33, a race for most, I found it to be a complete struggle where I just couldn’t lift it.
Working in Dublin, the natural place to train during the week is the Phoenix Park. With a “running boom” in the country, the amount of runners is just a joy to watch. The long evening are a challenge to be honest, thankfully this winter so far has been quite mild with little rain.
For 2017, my plans are sketchy. Lots of regular events at home. Abroad eyeing New York in November and Berlin (If Mukhtar goes as planned!!!!).
The Christmas break will give an opportunity for the long runs, not ruling out Dubai or Muscat in the very near future.
In contact with the Ultra runner Chris Denison, trips across the Irish Sea a definite.
A day rarely passes with thoughts on RRR, the people, and the continued success and joy it brings to your hearts. It’s a great product and dovetails as a much need outlet in the kingdom. Running on Ranco Farm, my favourite by a long way, there is something unique on the course, with the hanging branches being a real feature.
A thank you to all, committee under the leadership of Richard, past committee members, fellow runners and others I cannot name all (apologies), but you know who you are. The continued success and growth will ensure a healthy future.
In summary, without RRR my stay in the kingdom would have been short lived. Highlights on my 6 seasons was meeting my now wife, Cristina Gelasin, having two gorgeous children, Oisin & Einin.
RRR second on the list with so much to look back on, followed by the Hash, Tri Club & Naomh Alee GAA Club.
God bless you all, don’t be a stranger, your always welcome to this part of the world. Best wishes for 2017 and let the journey continue.