A Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) Runaround

After my meetings finished on Sunday, a run was in order.  Now ideally I would have done said run at 6AM on Sunday, well before my meetings.  But when my alarm went off there was lot of snooze button pushing and I was largely pretty exhausted still.  So I figured since the heat was already in the mid-upper 80’s at 6AM, there wasn’t much difference at 4-5PM.

Turns out that there was about a 15-20°F difference.  And not only was it over 100°F, it was also incredibly humid.  No humidity that I’ve felt before can match this.  Having the Red Sea all of a few meters away probably didn’t help.

In any case, off on my run I went.  I started from the relatively green and lush hotel compound and quickly wandered outside.

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Immediately outside there was a large roundabout with a statue in it.  As you’ll see, there’s actually a fair amount of artwork in most roundabouts as well as along the way.

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I soon joined up with a seawall and a corresponding park.  The night before as I passed this coming in from the airport this had been relatively full of families enjoying the end of the weekend.  Now however, there was only a handful of people:

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In some sections there was a bit of a beach area.  I saw a few women dipping their feet in the water here, but beyond that it was pretty empty.

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Below was one of the many works of art inside the park area.  The little strip of a park along the water was arguably the only public green space I saw anywhere around the city (at least between my hotel, the airport, and the offices I was meeting at).  Obviously the heat and desert-aspect of this area means growing anything is tricky.

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Far off in the distance you can see two white pillars, that’s a huge Mosque I’d ultimately make a gradual loop around as the path passed it.  Still not many people around.

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The park I was running along for the first portion was called Middle Corniche Park.  There are different sections of this park that are along various areas of the coastline.  From what I gathered from others, it’s where most of the running is done in these parts.

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I’d soon leave the green behind though and work my way around a giant compound that was in between me and the next chunk of green.

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It was at this intersection that I nearly had a minor problem.  I planned to work my way around the roundabout, but it turns out that the next exit on the roundabout is also an entrance to said gigantic military compound.  Except, that wasn’t terribly clear…at least until the guard started whistling at me.  Of course, I hadn’t actually gone down that route yet, and just around the corner there was another guard, so I certainly wouldn’t have gotten very far.  Plus, they were both friendly.

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Once past the roundabout I continued along towards…nowhere.

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Observation: It was really hot out in nowhere.

At about this point it became obvious to my body that going for as long as I wanted to wasn’t really in the deck of cards.  Since I was doing an out and back, I didn’t want to get stuck too far out if things got significnatly worse.  I figured I could always tack-on time/distance nearer the hotel if need be.  So I turned around at the 5K marker and started working my way back.

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A short bit later after uneventfully passing the military compound, it was back onto the Corniche:

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And then from here back past the beaches and the mosque before continuing my way to the hotel.

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Unfortunately, two things occurred.  First, my camera just completely gave-up.  Unclear why, as it was running on a full battery.  And second, my ability to run consistently also went out the window.  The heat and humidity was definitely catching on.

How hot you ask?  Well, here’s the temperature graph from the run.  Remember that it takes about 20-30 minutes for most GPS watch temperature gauges to stabilize:

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Which meant that by time I finally got back to the hotel (and grabbed my cell-phone) for a walk around the compound as a ‘cool-down’, I felt like this:

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Clearly my issue was not consuming the cucumber water that they had at breakfast…

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And on the bright side, by time I got back it had cooled down to a chilly 100°F:

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And thus, the end of my run:

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Oh – and for those curious, I actually selected a much longer pair of shorts for my run in Jeddah.  I dug through my closet looking for something that was roughly knee-length.  In consulting with both my hotel as well as another hotel’s website, that seemed like I should be fine (as a male) with roughly knee-length ones versus shorter running shorts.  By ‘fine’, I mean avoiding an interaction with the authorities on dressing inappropriately.  Thankfully, no problems there – thus, another successful Saudi Runaround in the books.

Thanks for reading!

(Side note: Feel free to comment as always, but please let’s keep any comments focused on aspects of my run, as this is not a foreign policy blog.  There are plenty of other places for that elsewhere on the interwebs.  Sound good?  Good.)

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43 Comments

  1. Karl

    Nice run. Wondering about the temp?

    I have a Casio Mudman and this only ever shows the temp as my body temp (37c) unless it’s hung from a bag etc for about 10 minutes.

    How does the Garmin do the air temp compared to Casio?

    Would Ambit 3 (pre-ordered) be able to give accurate temp while on the wrist?

    • Yup, I had the Ambit3 on the other wrist. When I looked, it was roughly reporting within about 1*F of the Fenix2 (I unfortunately hadn’t configured a data page during the run, so just pre/post-run).

      I’m waiting for Movescount to actually start working again so I can upload it and check out the during-run data to see how it compared.

  2. Remco Verdoold

    Going through the pictures makes me wonder; Where is everybody?!?!!? it is all empty no single person on the street (walking/cycling).

    • BillM

      Only other things you will see out and about in that temperature are ” Mad dogs and Englishmen”

    • Jonas S.

      The corniche is usually that empty at that time of the day. As soon as the sun goes down and the temperatures reach the lower 30°Cs it gets crowded, many people having barbecues on the few grass parts. Traffic is horrible. From where I lived it took at least one hour to get to the corniche during the evening.

    • Kevin

      I saw the same thing in Bahrain. People don’t sit in the sun during the summer, but the parks are packed at night. Not unusual to see families with small children in the park at 11pm.

  3. michael

    Jeez kebab, it looks hot! I noticed from you pics that there were very little people on the side walks, obviously the locals are wiser than you!

  4. Anthony C

    Interesting to look at the Strava file and see the huge effect of the heat on your heart rate. That sort of heat is extremely stressful and seems to have elevated your normal rate by quite a few beats despite the modest pace. I’ve just returned to Paris from holidays in (hot) Provence and noticed the drop in my own HR immediately.

  5. Grew up in Jeddah. The city is the most humid place I’ve ever been to. 100% humidity is a good day there :)

  6. Zanza00

    pretty much unrelated but this week i got in a sauna with the same watch, it was colder (35 c°).

    How was the humidity?

  7. Scott E

    Here in Texas it is a similar heat and humidity profile, though certain to be a notch less extreme than your location in Saudi. Hydration is a real problem for athletes as it relates to cramping, and hardly a runner here is without some form of drink. Once it gets past 96 degrees it is a full switch over to the bike as the minor windflow is about the only thing that keeps ones head from melting.

    You are welcome to come join us for the Hotter n’ Hell Hundred (known locally as the HHH) here every August. It’s like a 100 mile biking carnival of misfits in a extreme variety of bikes and outfits, and yes, it looks like most participants have lost their minds due to the heat. Surely a great way to heat train for the Australia off-season…if you are into that too.

  8. Harvey

    I experienced similar temperatures and humidity levels in Kuwait. Worse than anything I’ve experienced in the state. Made me eager to get back to Baghdad (where I was stationed at the time) because though the temps were the same at least it was dry!

  9. Kim Smith

    Curious, do you run with your passport?

  10. Gunnar

    Ray,
    Was that temperature reading from the fenix2 itself or with the Tempe pod?

    • From the Fenix2 itself. I played around a little bit afterwards with putting it off to the side in the grass and didn’t see any change. I suspect if the temp was under 98*F, I’d see more change, but given it was above ones body temperature, it’s likely a wash.

    • Gunnar

      Ha! so true. I hadn’t thought of that. Of course if it’s hotter than 98 degrees it probably is a wash.

  11. Sara

    I’m curious if you run with any sort of water/sports drink in those sort of conditions and if so, how do you carry it? I can’t imagine running in temps. like that for any significant amount of time without hydration.

    • Yup, I ran with a water bottle in my hand. I meant to grab my CamelBak, but forgot to pack it. I also didn’t think to take any sort of sports drink powder to put in (usually I have some stashed away in my suitcase, but none was left).

  12. Peter

    On hot days I almost always run based on heart rate rather than speed. Mind you I’ve never run in that kind of weather.

  13. errol viquez

    Hi Ray!
    what kind of camera do you usually use when you go out to run? I thought you use you’re phone!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  14. David Smoot

    Do you have any insight about how the various calculated performance metrics (V02 max, recovery, race time predictor, etc) account for temperature? I run outdoors just South of Houston and the heat affects my pace by as much as a minute per mile when comparing my January data with my August data. Do you think those algorithms consider ambient temperature?
    David

  15. Rhett

    100° F and oppressively humid: do you know what the “real feel” or “heat index” was for that run? I went for a short run in Orlando a few weeks ago and it was 94° but the “real feel” was reported as 112° due to humidity, which seemed right as I was having to huff and puff just to maintain a slow pace.

  16. Juan Zorrilla

    Nice trip! I’m in South Florida and I run with a group from work during lunch twice a week. With the humidity it has easily been 105 ~ 110 degrees. It is almost unbearable but you kinda get used to it. We’re just hoping the pace gets better once less hot weather comes around.

  17. John B

    Ray,

    Do you ever catch the ire of customs agents when you have so many different devices?

    • Not generally. Because it was Saudi, I did actually pair-down a bit just to minimize potential for fail given the generally strict nature there. I usually have lots of random stuff floating around my bag/suitcase (sensors/charging cables/etc…).

      That said, they didn’t even glance at me or my stuff.

  18. Scott McKenzie

    You’ve been using the Fenix 2 a lot recently – any particular reason for just runs? I have the FR620 but as I am getting into Triathlons I am thinking about cashing it out and getting the Fenix – or waiting for the possible 910XT replacement….

    The Fenix2 seems a rather chunky beast – does it bother you when running?

    • I simply grabbed the Fenix2 because I knew the temp data might be interesting, wheres the FR620 that I’d normally use doesn’t measure temperature.

      Beyond that, I’m doing some other testing on the Fenix2 that was specific to that unit. By next week I’ll be back to using the FR620 as my running watch. I don’t find it clunky though, perhaps if you come originally from the FR305/FR310/FR910XT world, then the Fenix2 seems kinda small…

    • Fwiw, you can see in today’s Fenix2 release some of the stuff I was testing out (and why I was using it).

  19. Here in Fort Lauderdale if I don’t start running before 6AM it’s probably not going to happen. It’s amazing how much of a better runner I become in the Winter!

  20. Paul Frylink

    I spent the summer in Doha Qatar last year – I know exactly how it feels – yucky!
    I would go out at 5:30am for a walk/jog – when you notice that the hotel windows are completely steamed up and running with condensation, you knew it would be bad – I would come back quite literally soaked through.
    Max temp I saw while driving around the deserts there was 53c on the car thermometer…

  21. Oscar P

    Re: “camera giving up despite the full battery” I think that a some electronics won’t turn on or will turn off once they reach certain temperature. Not sure if they have some kind of thermostat that prevents them from overheating. When I was traveling through South East Asia my phone and a small point and shoot camera will turn off. I blamed the batteries at first but when going back to a hotel w A/C they would come back to life and will show an 80% battery or so.

  22. Tim

    Interesting to read about your time in Saudi Ray, just got back from 2 weeks in Riyadh which is hotter still but thankfully significantly less humid. If you’ve done any running there I’d be keen to hear your thoughts as I instantly scrapped road running on account of the lack on consistent pavements (read sidewalks) and the crazy driving that the locals seem to enjoy. Oh, and the heat of course too, so just spent the time on the hotel treadmill.

    • I’ve been a bit lucky in that both Jeddah and Al Khobar have some form of water (being on the coast) to run along. However, in the case of Khobar, I still had to run to it – which was a mile or two, and that was a little less awesome, as you described.

  23. Midpackbiped

    Yes – important to remember – no thigh visibility in the Middle East, boys.

    • It really depends on the country, and even within the country – the specific region. For example, in Saudi, it’s less ideal in Jeddah, but not that big of a deal in Al Khobar. In the UAE, it’s not a problem at all. Same goes for Oman and Bahrain.

  24. Abdullah Al Hashem

    Hi.. Iam living currently in Riyadh, please visit us and i’ll show you many running sites here :)
    You are welcome