Manal Rostom started running competitively after moving from Kuwait to Dubai five years ago and hasn’t stopped since. After competing in a series of half, full and ultra marathons throughout the Gulf, Rostom now dedicates her Monday evenings to her post as a Nike+ Run Club trainer, leading the first women-only Nike+ Run Club in Dubai.
Ahead of Nike’s We Run DXB on November 13, Brownbook joins Rostom for a leisurely weekend jog through Dubai Marina to learn about Dubai’s running culture.
“The best thing about running here is that there’s a proper community”
“I get too excited about running”
How did you first get into running?
I’ve been into athletics since I was in high school, all the way back to when I was 15 and joined the track and field team. I’ve always run as a way to stay in shape and relieve stress, but I only started taking up racing when I moved to Dubai about five years ago.
What’s the best thing about Dubai’s running culture?
The best thing about running here is that there’s a proper community – people who take running seriously. There are so many clubs and they’re so friendly. There are trail running communities, long-distance running communities – you can really choose whatever you want.
Why did you join the Nike+ Run Club?
Running, in general, is therapeutic. I wanted to get myself running and moving, and I also wanted to meet new people – I was new to Dubai. I started turning up to meet fellow runners. The best thing about Nike+ Run Club, however, is that it’s free. You literally just have to turn up with your running shoes on.
And now you lead your own Nike+ Run Club?
I run the women-only Nike+ Run Club. It’s every Monday at BoxPark Dubai. It’s the first women-only run club in the region that’s led by Nike. For me, of course, it’s a great honour to lead it. It’s aimed at beginner runners and we’re trying to promote and encourage women in the region to get out and run.
What are you looking forward to most about Nike’s We Run DXB this month?
I’m going to be a Nike pacer – I’ll be wearing a white flag on my back and helping other runners to pace their run and achieve the time they want. The advantage of running We Run DXB is that the route is set through Downtown, so it’s a flat course. There are no hills, so the chances of getting a personal best are quite high. We call it the fastest 10k in the city.
What other events do you like to run in the Gulf?
I did the RAK Half Marathon in Ras Al Khaimah in 2012. It was the first time that I’d ever run a half marathon – it was amazing. I did my first full marathon in 2014 at the Dubai Marathon in 2014. That was a breakthrough for me. I also did my first ultramarathon – around 50 kilometres – last year at the Wadi Bih Run in Oman.
What advice do you have for anyone running We Run DXB for the first time?
I customise a playlist to make sure that I’m motivated throughout my run. I sit down and compose a playlist that perhaps starts off with slow songs that get faster. You also have to listen to your body and give yourself a rest. I’m guilty of not doing that – I get too excited about running. The worst thing is getting an injury and being told that you need two to three weeks of rest. That’s like death and decay to me.
01 Dubai Marina – Palm Jumeirah
‘The Nike+ Running app monitors your runs through GPS,’ says Rostom. ‘When you finish, you can see what your route looked like. My favourite route is to start from Dubai Marina and run all the way into Palm Jumeirah. It shows you running between the fronds, and will end up looking like a palm tree.’
02 Kite Beach
‘There’s a brand new route at Kite Beach, with a proper track that’s safe for the knees,’ says Rostom. The 14-kilometre Jumeirah Corniche soft track installed last year stretches from the Burj Al Arab to Dubai Marine Beach Resort. ‘Treadmills aren’t great for the knees – you have to run on a proper soft track to avoid injury.’
03 Safa Park
Safa Park, one of Dubai’s largest green spaces, is fitted with a purpose built running track at its perimeter – one lap is roughly 3.4 kilometres. ‘It’s well equipped for runners and gives you different options for distance,’ says Rostom.