- Follow the main arteries. The maps you can find on the Internet or at hotels are rarely in English and rather simplified anyway, focusing on highlighting the largest roads for cars. Indeed, here, given the hot weather and cheap gas, everything is designed around and for cars, so you need to get along, especially in the new Jumeira suburb of Dubai. Of course, as always, or like the salmons coming back to their breeding place which I saw in Issaquah 2 weeks ago, run against the traffic so you see cars coming.
- Don't be ashamed to appear like a zombie. As I could see, and that was confirmed to me by a few locals, nobody runs here so you'll appear like an alien. Many drivers will use their horn, and I'm not sure if it's in a nice or bad way (I hate it anyway...). You'll also get a weird look from people in the street. Keep going...
- Keep a low profile. Both in Riyadh and Bahrain, I ran into areas patrolled by the army (like the Ministry of Interior in Riyadh, but in Bahrain too next to the Pearl Monument). I asked where they wanted me to go, I can tell you they were quite surprised to see a runner so close. In retrospective, colleagues told me it was really dangerous to play around such places in the Saudi Kingdom in particular. Watch your steps... And, oh ladies, I can't imagine how locals would take seeing you in running shorts or skirt, or a sport bra...
- Carry your own water. Don't count on finding drinking fountains! Actually, you will see quite a few at the entrance of the many mosques, but I'm not sure the water is meant to be drunk, rather used for ablutions (like men use the lavatory sinks at the airports to wash their feet... which isn't so elegant...). For my long run in Riyadh, I carried 2 bottles which wasn't even enough for 3 hours in 100F/38C temperatures. On my way back to Olaya, I stopped by a very large and modern supermarket and, with assurance, got in before a security guy pulled me out because I was wearing shorts in a muslim place. I know it wasn't appropriate for a mosque but a supermarket... Several others guards arrived and I made the case that I was going to pass out (not really although I was definitely very thirsty and I had lost a lot of salt again on my shirt), that was enough to get an exception (and weird looks again from shoppers, both women and men, oops).
- Day or night. On this one, I don't have a clear cut. Late night is better in terms of traffic (less of it) and lower temperatures. But you aren't visible from drivers in certain dark places and this is less picturesque too. By the day, you will see more but suffer from the heat. For instance, in Riyadh, it was 29C at night, 38C at mid day. And October is the nice season, temperature goes up to 55C in summer... But, pick either late night or the day, avoid the end of the day where drivers are tired and not accustomed with the dimming light.
a few pictures from my hotel room and from the cab the next day.
PS: for some reasons (connectivity bandwidth?) Sporttracks didn't download the maps when I uploaded my GPS information while I was in the Gulf. Here are three of them to give you more insights about the places I ran.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates:
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: