Running The Cairo (half) Marathon
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
I have a love/hate relationship with running here in Cairo. The heat, traffic, pollution and lack of suitable routes can make the morning jog seem not so appealing. Despite this, once you force yourself out early enough to avoid the aforementioned issues, running in Cairo is actually quite fun, and can can reveal a part of the city you never knew existed. Early in the morning, central Cairo is empty of people and cars, despite a few taxis and members of the security forces guarding important buildings. The city always surprises me in the morning with its illusive beauty, usually hidden by the noise and hustle of the city ready to erupt as Cairenes start their commute to work. After a bumpy start, finding out suitable routes and the right times to run, I restarted taking regular morning runs and quickly began to love it. Having already wanting to take it to the next level, I saw something pop up on social-media about the upcoming Cairo Marathon 2019, and immediately booked a place for the half marathon.
I started working towards the marathon by upping the distance of my morning runs. Through trail and error, I actually surprised myself with how nice some of the routes I found were. The best of which, I'll write up soon.
Finally the day of the marathon came around, and I headed to starting point bright and early. Once there, I was immediately impressed by the amount of people, sponsors, and the organisation of the event. After a 15-minute warm up led by an instructor on the stage, and the introduction of the pacers, we all rallied around the starting gate on Qasr El-Nil Bridge, next to the Cairo's famous lions. The spirit was festive with plenty of people out to support loved ones, along with drummers and even clowns to get people into the mood. The race started and we all leapt off the line, albeit with an overly confident pace initially.
The route was beautiful and went past some of Cairo's most iconic buildings. Starting from Qasr El-Nil Bridge, then along the leafy Corniche next to the Nile, past Al-Manial palace, curling round Downtown, and finishing up with a loop of Zamalek. The route never failed to impress, especially the Downtown section. A deserted Downtown in the morning is beautiful, and a great backdrop for a run. A must do for any joggers with a free Friday morning. I finished the race exhausted and happy, looking forward to running another one in the near future. The finish line at Al-Horreya Gardens was full of clapping spectators, on-hand masseuses to help with aching legs, well-needed food and drink, and a whole lot of freebies from the sponsors.
The event is organised by Cairo Runners, a group that has been working towards making Cairo more jogger-friendly since 2012 with weekly training sessions, big group runs and other initiatives. The Cairo Marathon has only been up and running (excuse the pun) for a few years, yet I was incredibly by how well organised and established the event seemed. The whole event was super welcoming to all abilities without judgement, and in addition to different length races, the marathon also had a Family Run and Para Race for disabled runners. I'd fully encourage anyone thinking about starting running in Cairo to do it! Likewise, I'd fully recommend any events organised by Cairo Runners. I myself, am looking forward to doing a full marathon with them soon, and will maybe check out their marathons in Alexandria and Gouna. For me information on Cairo Runners or any of their future run, check them out out on Facebook or through their website.