The event, which is set to become a full marathon by next year, is going to hire a professional management company to manage it. The news came after last Thursday's race, when competitors battled traffic and two were "knocked over". Some people in the open race missed the start, others took shortcuts.
I happened to get trapped in the thing – oddly, held in the late afternoon – twice, the last time thinking "this might be the worst marathon ever". I have a little experience with half-marathons, having run one in Toronto several years ago.
There I didn't know how good I had it: city officials shut down all the roads involved, including the main artery Yonge St, and kept them shut until the bulk of runners had made their way through the course. My first encounter with the Zayed Marathon was when I emerged from the Hiltonia Beach Club to a closed road, one I had no option but to turn onto despite the presence of a man toddling down the middle of it. I turned off, noticing a complete log-jam on streets by the Hilton, and congratulated myself on missing most of the mayhem. (An utter and complete lack of signs indicating the event was happening had left me in the dark.)
I made my way down to the plant souk at Zayed Port, where I filled the car with some new greenery to replace what I killed off in 2009, got back inside only to be stopped as I made my way out. Idling with a bunch of other cars, I noticed a pack of elite runners making their way through the roundabout. "I am going to be here all day," I thought, mentally calculating how long it would take most of the runners to make their way through that spot.
But it was only about 20 minutes later when the police officer who was directing traffic motioned for us to be on our way. As I turned right at the roundabout, now filled with cars and trucks, I noticed a male runner trying to make his way through the traffic. He was followed by a woman, and another man. They were still in the race and trying to get through the middle of an exhaust-filled, noisy roundabout. Then, still in choking traffic, they had to run on a dirt part of the road that was under construction, dodging cones and barriers, trying to find a flat place so they could get to the Corniche.
Hopefully that can be sorted by next year. Cities close main arteries for marathons all the time. They usually hold them on a weekend morning, when the impact is minimal. So moving the event from rush hour on the busiest day of the week – Thursday, when everyone is rushing to get home for the weekend – could be a good start to improving things.