Saturday, December 06, 2008

Running in Jordan

This weekend our family traveled four hours south to the Red Sea port city of Aqaba where we participated in the now annual Red Sea-Aqaba Marathon--no,no, I didn't run a marathon: Dear Husband, Artist Son, and I ran the 10K a Active Son ran his first 21K (half marathon). Though I've never participated in such a run in the States, I'm sure that our race experience had a distinctly Jordanian twist to it; and as I reflected on the experience I've concluded that it represented a microcosm of Jordanian culture.

Fun Runs and marathon competitions are fairly recent events in Jordan but are growing in popularity. When we reached the start line of the 10K we found an interesting juxtaposition of cultures and world citizens ready to participate. I met a British man, working in Amman temporarily, and a 60 year old German woman who trains in the Syrian forest along the Mediterranean coast. Active Son, wearing his Boise State Broncos hat, met a Boisean, a college student studying in Jordan. The race organizers must have entered a lot of local youth for free as there were many Aqaba teens with shirts and race numbers. And, I was humbled to run with some Jordanian women wearing full sweat suits and head coverings; though I wore 3/4 length running pants it was t-shirt and shorts weather in Aqaba.

As we gathered behind the start ribbon a bunch of the local youth burst out under it and the start official had to herd them all back with his megaphone. Everyone was warned against cheating with the threat that, if caught, they would be disqualified. Let's just say it really.didn't.matter. As we headed into our first intersection at which we would turn left, the local youth took one look at the open field shortcut on their left and made a dash for it. The foreigners and a few locals dutifully ran to the end of the concrete median before turning left. It struck me that for the westerners (and yes, I am going to make some generalizations) the process of getting from the start to the finish was what was important. That process was primarily individual and included rules and disciplines to be submitted to. For the locals, the social aspect was more important than the rules to be followed. One runner took a short-cut and all his friends followed suit. And while finishing was important it didn't seem too important how one arrived at the finish line, even it if meant traveling part of the distance in someone's car.

I ended up running alongside some of the local youth. As I am a foreign novelty they tried to start conversations with me. They were acting silly but if I answered in Arabic and told them that my name was Um Active Son, (Mother of Active Son) they behaved repectfully toward me. They sprinted ahead of me and when I, slow and steady, caught up with them, they'd run with me awhile and sprint another 100 meters. It was one way to finish the race.

Kilometer markers were another problem. Within about 1 kilometer of the finish the posted sign read:4 km. Yikes! I was feeling pretty fatigued so slowed down considerably, believing I had miscalculated and still had 4 km to run. I should have been begining my kick as I soon rounded a bend and was faced with the finish line. I poured it on for the remaining 50 meters. Oh well.

Active Son had his own complaint: the race route was poorly marked and he strayed off course for a few minutes before realizing his error. His error was minor; apparently some of the top contenders, mostly Jordanians, in the marathon and 21K race strayed way off course, causing them to miss their opportunity to place in the race. Active Son reported they were very upset when they arrived at the finish line.

Though we're all a bit sore, we're already planning our events for the Dead Sea Marathon in April. Artist Son thinks he may train to run the 21K with Active Son. I'm pretty sure I'll be sticking with the 10K. Oh, and this was my first time to run with an ipod. Very cool. My soundtrack for the race included a few violin concertos which Oldest Daughter has played. Most inspirational: the 3rd movement of Bruch.


MagistraCarminum said...

I am SO impressed! Way to go and hurrahs for the whole family!

macmahon7 said...

Way to go, Manning family! Sounds like quite the fun run and an interesting social experience! A bit of snow here, so no shorts and t-shirts for us.

Rex said...

I must say, Melissa, you are looking fantastic! Great work all.


(this will say Rex, but it is really me (-:)

UmmFarouq said...

Hi Desert Mom,
I'm good friends with Kinzi, and she keeps telling me how much you and I have in common. I finally clicked over from her blog to visit yours, and realized that I know you. :) From Little League...Farouq played on Coach Doug's team last Spring. Hope to see you this Spring. Take care and you have a lovely family.