This week’s Running The World comes from Egypt. Egypt is the largest country in the Middle East – it’s 390,000 sq miles and has 89,000 inhabitants. The majority of its people live in a corridor along the Nile River but the Sahara Desert makes up the majority of its actual land. Egypt has incredible history but is currently going through a very difficult, turbulent political situation.
I found today’s interviewee, Jaida, though the Cairo Runners running club who I contacted through Facebook. And this is what we talked about.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Jaida Lasheen. I am Egyptian and at the moment I work at a bank in the corporate department, I’ve always been interested in travelling around the world exploring different places. The most interesting place I’ve been to is Kenya – seeing the wildlife was spectacular.
How did you get into running?
I started to run when I decided I wanted to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle, especially when I lost interest in gyms. I lost 17 kilos and I’ve never stopped running since then – partly because I want to maintain my weight but also because I realized running always lifted my mood and spirit. I’ve been running for 4 years now and can’t imagine my life without it.
Running became more than just trying to lose weight, it changed my strength (mind and body), my endurance and my personal power. First I was only running at the track- about 4k – twice a week but now I can easily run 10k three times a week.
Later on, I was introduced to Cairo Runners an organization that organizes weekly runs which, every week in a different location. I thought this was perfect as I enjoy the changing scenery. What’s more, the spirit, energy and companionship of perfect strangers is amazing.
How popular is running in Egypt these days. Is it growing in popularity?
Running has definitely been getting bigger recently. Over the past two years, Cairo Runners has successfully organized a half marathon. Last year, 2,000 runners participated whilst this year over 5,000 runners participated.
Do you have any idea about running’s popularity in different parts of the country?
All I know is that after Cairo Runners started up, we’ve been seeing similar organized runs in different cities.
How do Egyptian runners handle the heat?
They tend to run either very early in the morning like Cairo Runners or late at night with lots of water.
How popular is running amongst Egyptian women?
Definitely now, women are much more confident about running than before. I see as many women as I see men during my Friday runs with Cairo Runners.
How safe do you feel when you run?
Individual running in the street is still not safe as we have been dealing and fighting several sexual harassment cases – that’s why I’d much rather run as a group where I feel completely safe.
Which are the most popular races in Egypt?
This year The 22nd Egyptian Marathon will take place in Luxor City on January 16th 2015, the 14th 100Km Pharaonic Race will take place in Cairo City on 21st November 2014 and the 6th Sharm El Sheikh Half Marathon on next March.The Marathon is an international event with over 36 nationalities participating and it is the only A I M S (Association of international Marathons and Road Races) certified marathon in the country. There will also be Cairo Runners’ annual Half Marathon although the date has yet to be announced
Which is your favourite race?
I haven’t done any races yet but my goal is to train for the Triathlon which happens in Gouna, Hurghada every year, mostly because I will be combining three different sports in one race. I find that an exciting challenge. Not only that but, with the multi-functional training that is required, I’d be exercising and training my whole body.
What do Egyptian runners use to eat or drink whilst running?
In order to keep your energy levels steady during a run particularly a long one, we at Cairo runners always recommend to refuel with carbs through sports drinks as they are easier to digest. They can be found in popular super markets like Metro and Alfa Market – brands like Gatorade and Vitamin water
How expensive are races, compared to average salaries? Are they something that most people can afford to do or are they too expensive?
On average, they are usually pretty reasonable compared to international races. When races are organised, the average salary is usually considered before the final price is set.
What brands are popular in Egypt?
Activ is a popular Egyptian brand. They sponsor many football teams, young champions and local championships. Not only football but they are also sponsors of basketball, tennis and the Olympics delegations too. However you can still purchase some of the international brands at our malls.
What is the best thing about running in Egypt
There are so many cities and different places around Egypt you can run and explore – for example around the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the River Nile. However it does require a bit of travelling.
What is the worst thing/biggest challenges?
Road races in Cairo can be challenging because of the lack of sidewalks and chaotic traffic!
Jaida, thank you so much for your time. You can follow Jaida on Instagram HERE.
For more Running The World interviews, click HERE.