A Marathon in Morocco

I usually write my race recaps as soon as possible after the race before I forget too many of the details. However with this one, I just kept feeling like I wasn't ready to write it. I was still trying to process so many conflicting emotions. I'm hoping that maybe writing this will help me process it and move on to the most important thing- celebrating the fact I have now run 26.2 miles on all 7 continents. 

So I was flying (literally) totally blind on this one. I got on a plane to Morocco with no idea where exactly I'd be running, since for the first time on this journey I was not running an official race. We got to our hotel in Mohammedia, which turned out to be a small city 30 minutes outside Casablanca, around noon on Friday. After we got some lunch I started scoping out the situation. There was good news and bad news. On the good side was the fact that there was a pedestrian only path running along the waterfront. On the negative side, it was less than a mile long, made of uneven stone, and crowded!
The path (at 5:45 am so it isn't yet crowded)

Throughout the afternoon I also noticed the issue of clothing. Morocco is a Muslim country, and so Muslim women are required to cover their entire bodies, with the exception of the face and the hands. All the Muslim women wore some version of a veil the covers the head and most wore long loose robes or dresses (some wore the veil with more Western clothes). The non Muslim women were still very covered, in pants and long sleeves. When I went out in shorts (which were neither very short nor very tight), I felt really uncomfortable. It wasn't that I felt unsafe or anyone made outright comments or gestures, but I definitely felt watched and disapproved of. 
breakfast in the bathroom


However, I was in Morocco to run a marathon and I was determined to do it by any means necessary. I woke up around 5 on Saturday morning and got myself ready. I ate my breakfast in the bathroom so I wouldn't wake up my friend (not gross at all right?) and really wished I could have a cup of coffee, but nothing was open.


I set out at 6, just as it got light, with my water, some fuel, and my Garmin. Even at 6 it was very humid and I was sweating within minutes. I had been hoping I would beat the crowd, but there was already a large group of men cleaning the beach.

sunrise

I felt every single pair of eyes on me as I ran by. There were several other men out running and they too eyed me as I ran by. Down and back on the board walk was about a mile and half. By my 5th or 6th lap, groups of women also started to arrive to exercise. However, they were all fully covered and walked in groups. By 6 miles, I was feeling quite demoralized. I felt so conspicuous. I was so hot. The hard, uneven surface was hurting my legs. I tried venturing off the boardwalk a few times, but between the traffic, the lack of other people, and the unknown environment I didn't feel safe.

so many times back and forth.... with just a few diversions

I ended up running half my "race" on a treadmill. This is where all the mixed emotions come in. Flying across the ocean to run on a treadmill? In a way it feels like cheating. But at the same time, it was absolutely what I needed to do. I couldn't run before dark, and I can't run a 2 hour marathon in order to finish before the seaside path got too crowded. With the heat, there is no way I could have run in long sleeves and long pants, even if I'd had them. And good God, running 13 miles on a treadmill is mentally way harder than running outside. But it does make it so much easier to have even splits- just set the speed and try to keep up!

treadmill run

outside run


I also have mixed feelings about the fact that I didn't do an official race. I knew this was my one chance to get to Africa and run for the next couple years. So I don't regret going and doing my own thing. But finishing and having just my friend Cheri there didn't have quite the same satisfying feeling as crossing a big finish line. Although thanks to my amazing friend I did get a medal! Cheri had medal made for me. How sweet it that?






I did it. I ran my 26.2 miles in Africa. I'm done with this almost 7 year journey. The person who still doesn't consider herself a real runner has now run a marathon on all 7 continents. I just can't make it feel real.



Comments

  1. how impressive! you go girl.

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  2. Congrats! And how sweet of your friend to make you a medal.

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    1. Thanks Wendy! It was so nice of her- what a great friend!

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  3. Congrats!!! And it's not cheating, it's just dissapointing that that is what you had to do! But it sounds like it was totally the right thing. I wonder if they even have running races there where people can dress like they do here?

    How sweet that Cheri made you a medal!

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    1. Thank you! It actually makes me feel better knowing that a "real" runner doesn't think it was cheating! What's funny is that I learned there was a 10k scheduled in Casablanca the weekend we were there, so they do have road races. But I don't know what the dress code is.

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