Wadi Adventure Race (W.A.R.) 11 took place on a Saturday morning on the base of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The park is home to the world’s longest man-made whitewater channels – a combined length of 1.2 kilometers- and the world’s largest surf pool. The race had 3 distances to choose from, 5k, 10k, and 15k (10k course with a repeat of the 5k course). Each distance listed different registration types based on athletic ability with only the 10k offering an “Elite” category. It was not mandatory obstacle completion; however, the rules state a competitor must make three attempts before moving on and select obstacles had a penalty loop for non-completion.
When registering for the race, we had fairly low expectations of the event compared to races in the USA. Event parking was easy, free, and close to the venue. Registration and packet pickup was a smooth and surprisingly quick transaction. When we headed to the starting area, the earlier race waves were being announced and released every 10 minutes. As soon as the last 5k wave departed they called for the 10k participants for a “warm up” session. This consisted of a “coach” on a stage helping us loosen up by doing various exercises and calisthenics. As soon as the coordinated warm-up ended, they called for the elite 10k participants to move into the starting corral. We quickly assessed the competition and discussed the best path forward as they called for the final participants of the elite wave. There was a person with a bullhorn who greeted us and quickly explained the highlights of the rules (makers, volunteers, etc…). In a matter of seconds, he was counting down 3….2…. 1 and we were off on the normal fast paced sprint that ensues after flood gates open to every competitive wave in OCR.
The course was surprisingly well marked for using mostly arrows to guide runners. There was an abundance of volunteers in vests who were strategically placed along the course and at every obstacle. These high visibility vests were nice because it was easy to identify the volunteers among the spectators and other competitors. W.A.R. had many different kinds of terrain ranging from sand, cement, rocks, trail, hills and spongy plant life I have never seen before. The 10k course had 25+ obstacles, many of them comparable to what we see in the US: sandbag carry (with over/unders), tire pull, cargo net, incline wall, 8’ vertical wall, rope swing, barbed wire crawl, ladder climb, rope traverse, parallel bars, pipe crawl, ice water bath, and water crossings. Obstacles unique to the course and worth highlighting include the long monkey bars, the plunge into the surf pool – in which many people wore life jackets to assist in the swim back to shore, and the most unconventional – the run against the current through the man made white water channels. This obstacle was surprisingly more difficult than I imagined with the rushing current being waist high at some points. Runners were cheered to the finish line and high-fived by Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pocahontas, and the Michelin Man.
There was a post-race buffet with at least fifteen different food options. This was real food, both hot and cold, not the standard protein bar and banana. One thing was missing – the free beer, or any beer for that matter (because of UAE regulations). The awards ceremony started on time and had prizes for podium placement in all 3 race distances and a trophy for first. Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, presented the awards and had competed in the 15k race.
Overall, the race was a great experience and worth the hour and forty-five minute drive from Dubai. Of the 600 registered racers, there were 60 different nations represented, including 49 people from the USA. The 5k category registrants were 46% female and 54% male, 10k was 25% female and 75% male, and the 15k was 15% female and 85% male. Both the male and female podium had international representation. As a competitive racer, the difficulty level was not “high” as touted on the registration site. Although the obstacles weren’t technical, they were strategically placed, well constructed, and able to wear you down as a good race should. I would highly recommend W.A.R. to anyone interested in OCR and who is in or near the region during the next event. The people were very friendly and the overall experience was incredible.
Photo credit: Ami Joyce and https://www.facebook.com/WadiAdventureRace/
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