Running around Dubai Marina

The embarrassing trials of exercise laid bare

Last word, The Knowledge

Caitlyn Davey wants to jog. But it’s not always that easy in a car-friendly city like Dubai.

I’ve been in the UAE for a year now and recently, I’ve taken up running (by which I mean moving slightly faster in short bursts of ten steps – if I’m lucky). Who knew Dubai Marina was so lovely, welcoming and runner-friendly? Everyone except me, actually. And after a mad day at work, I now put on my flash new running shoes and trot down to the waterfront. I may not be able to rival Usain Bolt yet, but at least I’ve got the look.

I don’t know if you are familiar with the trials and tribulations of being a pedestrian in Dubai, but boy is it entertaining! Open man-holes, foot paths disappearing, trudging through construction sites – it’s an adventure, which motorists seem to enjoy slowing down to watch, particularly when I’m forced to traverse narrow walkways and trip over large boulders.

As I’m pounding a rare patch of smooth pavement, one foot in front of the other, looking like Charlize Theron in Prometheus with my blonde tresses blowing out behind me, I tune out the admiring glances. I’m certain I look glorious and everyone is thinking, ‘good on her, I really should aspire to be more like that girl in the pink leggings’.

I silently congratulate myself on what a fit body I am going to have in just a couple of days.

As I reach my goal and prepare to retreat back home, I turn on my heels and march on. I did good – barely broke a sweat, I’m sure. As my music is blaring in my ears, I push myself into running mode again. It’s only as the song finishes I realise I am puffing rather loudly – no, exhaling at the level that Serena Williams grunts as she whacks a tennis ball. I inhale, a little embarrassed. How long have I been panting that loudly for?

Ah well, I’ve been working hard, nothing out of the ordinary, surely.

But I make a note to breathe a little more quietly as I push my legs forward on the home stretch. Jogging past more impressed spectators, I smile to myself, it gives me the push I need to run that little bit further, so everyone can talk about that fit girl on the Marina in the pink leggings. Well, they will soon, anyway.

Strolling through the underpass, I revel in the warm, not altogether un-smug feeling of a job well done. It’s not easy to work that hard and look great doing it.

As I trot the last few blocks home, riding the high of endorphins, hurtling past the tall buildings, I catch a glance of my reflection in a window. Only I’m not there. Someone else is looking back at me.

This person, this stranger in front of me, is wearing leggings that match the colour of her face, and looks like she’s spent three weeks at the bottom of a manhole, with hair that belongs to a woman on a broomstick and black eye make-up smeared down her cheeks. I stop and stare in shock. Apparently it was not admiring glances I was receiving on the Marina, but looks of fear at seeing a sight normally reserved for Halloween. Funnily enough, I’ve not checked out my reflection since.
Caitlyn is a Time Out section editor. If you see a frighteningly bedraggled woman puffing her way around Dubai Marina, do not be alarmed.

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