The Truth About Wadi Bih: What You Need To Know Before Running This Insane Race
Every six months, die-hard runners and fitness enthusiasts take to the wadis of Hatta, to participate in the relay or solo Wadi Bih race.
It's no picnic.
And on Friday, hundreds of residents headed out to Hatta to do just that.
Including me, and I'll tell you now, it was tough.
So the Wadi Bih race is either a solo run, or a relay race - we opted for relay race as none of us are ultra-marathon runners.
It's a 70k run, twice around a '35k' track (more on the track later), with five members of a team - one running and four in the car, driving mostly alongside runners, swapping out at each checkpoint.
It's roughly 15k per runner, which didn't seem too painful pre-race...
The beginning: wake up at 3am to get to Hatta
It all started with a 3am wake up to get to Hatta in time for the race start at 6am. Rather early. Luckily we had the coffee brewed, and a car full of chatty teammates to keep us awake.
It's a fairly smooth drive, and thankfully, I wasn't the one driving.
It's a 6am start at the JA Hatta Fort Hotel - and well worth staying the night there if you can, rather than battling the early early morning wake-up.
Due to the nature of the course, a 4wd is required to participate. There are a lot of rocky paths, dust in the air, steep paths and winding dirt paths.
The hills range from respectable inclines, to hills so steep it's akin to a stair-climb and cars struggle to make it up the incline.
Just thinking about those mountains gives me vertigo.
People had warned me about the dust, but it was still a shock. The dirt and dust went up my nose, in my mouth, covered my clothes and face, and was just everywhere.
During the run, my nose joined the party, also running, and I was coughing and spluttering for parts.
The views were spectacular though, from the Hatta Dam to the gorgeous wadis and new Meraas development, it was brilliant scenery for the most part, and a fun way to explore Hatta's backstreets and landscape.
Every leg of the race I ran, felt like the longest 5k of my life. It took far longer than your typical road run, thanks to the intense concentration needed to traverse the rocky terrain, and not break an ankle. But it made me so appreciate the portions of the run that were on asphalt.
Funnily, the directions during the race were not always clear, with some signage placed at weird intersections, and no indication of how far you were out from the checkpoint - which at times REALLY challenged us.
At one time, we even took a wrong turn, resulting in a few extra kms added on to our run, which wasn't ideal, but the scenery was nice, through some of Hatta's back streets and in the shade.
There were no water stations during the runs, only at the checkpoints, which made the dusty conditions even more challenging.
The Hatta back-alleys
After six hours of coughing and spluttering through the dust, struggles up hills, some toilet stops in what may be the UAE's most disgusting toilets, and some wrong turns, the last checkpoint (checkpoint 11 for those playing at home), finally appeared, and it was an explosive 400m to the finish line - which was easily the most satisfying part.
Plus, the hotel puts on food for everyone, which is exactly what you need after a six-hour dust-storm run.
You should definitely try this, at least once. It's tough, it's a challenge of grit and determination, and is a loooong day, but it's exhilarating and a fantastic way to see a different side of Hatta.
I'll be signing up for the February edition, to see if we can beat our time. Just be sure to come with nerves of steel, plenty of tissues and water, and a bad-ass 4wd.
If nothing else, the bragging rights make it all worth it...and so do the pictures.