These are pictures from a 7km run that I did with Jeddah Road Runners in February. We ran two loops around the area in the picture on the left.
Picture before the start of the race…
Jeddah Road Runners (JRR) has existed since 1984. They hold weekly runs every week or two from October to March. The distances are usually between 1 mile and 12km with an option each week for a shorter or half race. Both men and women participate. The group is organized by volunteers who arrange weekly sponsors, send out emails and plan the race course.
The races are held in the early morning or late afternoon in an area on the outskirts of Jeddah where there is little traffic. As the area is remote, women are not required to wear their abiyas.
One of the race directors Osama told me a bit about the history. Ten years ago JRR almost received regular sponsorship however just before the deal was finalized, the sponsors realized that both men and women ran in the races. Being a country where women have few rights and are technically not allowed to run in Saudi (I know!), the sponsors requested that the races put on by JRR be for men only. As about 40% of the participants are female, the group declined the sponsorship to ensure equal access for both men and women.
JRR will often receive sponsorship for the races. The sponsors will donate ‘prizes’ which are given to ALL participants of the race. After everyone has finished running they stand around and the race directors read out the places – not just 1st, 2nd, and 3rd but the place of every single participant. Talk about an inclusive and supportive group! After each persons name, time, and place is called out, they walk up to receive their prize. In this case it was a small box of cereal and a tin of powdered milk.
Every year JRR holds a few special events. They have a marathon and half marathon in February – 6 people ran the marathon in 2012. A McMile which is a mile race sponsored by McDonald’s. And the last run of the year which is a competition between the Hash Hound Harriers and JRR. Most of the runners participate in both but at the start of this event they have pick a team. The total scores are added up to decide the winner. This year the winner was JRR.
It was a wonderful experience to meet so many runners from all over. There was a mix of Saudi nationals and expats. I had so much fun at the race I went to and look forward to the fall when the races resume. There is lots to look forward to!