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Khaleek Asli

Running on Empty

With all of Cairo on a kind of health-kick these days, we thought we’d find out what all the fuss is about.

 Ahmed Ismail found himself drunkenly joining the Cairo Runners crew on a 10K sprint around the city and it was the best damn run of his life...

This adventure started on a Thursday afternoon not unlike every other Thursday afternoon in Cairo; people getting antsy at work/ university/ school because the weekend is almost upon them. I don’t know if there is a study on this, but I can almost guarantee that if there were one, it would show that Thursday afternoons in Cairo are among the most unproductive hours in human history. People are either too spaced out as they are just focused on where they’ll be going out later, what they will be wearing, who they will be seeing etc… or they still haven’t decided where they’ll go, so they spend hours discussing it. This  typically leads to the following exchange:

“Hanroo7 fen enaharda?”
“Mesh 3ayez teroo7 (insert name of bar/club)?”
“Ah, peace hakallemhom a7gez.”
5 minutes later) 
Kallemtohom and it’s fully booked, wanna go to (insert name of bar/club) instead?”
“La2 kollo 3eyal
, how about (insert name of bar/club)?”
“I’d be down to go but they only let couples in and we don’t have enough girls with us.”

And so it keeps going back and forth and is usually repeated with the rest of the person’s posse until a decision has been made.

Now there was only one difference this particular Thursday afternoon, and that was that I was going out as well. See, for the past 5 months I have been following a self-made rule of mine which is I WILL NOT GO OUT ON THURSDAY. I made this rule for several reasons:

1. I wanted to avoid the issues mentioned above, as I like to be productive and even if I happen to be unproductive for a while, I’d much rather spend three hours watching grass grow than spend them arguing over where I’m going out.

2. I try to avoid traffic at all costs. I know I have a better chance of riding a unicorn than avoiding traffic in Cairo, but I always TRY, so Thursday’s traffic is not something I want to be a part of.

3. I realised that on weekday nights, Cairo has about a 2 to 1 ratio of males to females which I can deal with. But then for some reason, on Thursdays ,you go out and you’re looking at something like 8 to 1. I mean I love a sausage fest as much as the next guy but 8 to 1? Come on.

Anyway, a group of friends had convinced me to go against my code last Thursday, so I sat in my office dreading the night ahead as I finished up my last appointment of the day, when a brilliant idea came to me. The same idea that comes to almost everyone when they’re not expecting to have fun on their night on the town, and that is “I need to start drinking early!”

Fear and Loathing in Cairo
And so I started. An hour and four drinks later, I get a call from my friend: “Hey, were not going to (insert name of bar/club) anymore because it turns out we have way more guys than girls. We’re going to (insert name of bar/club) because you can always count on it as a last resort.” What a splendid start to the evening, I think to myself, as I down another drink. Two more drinks, and I’ve actually managed to convince myself that I’ll have a good time, so I finally leave to go meet up with my friends. As soon as I enter the place, I encounter a sloppy drunk group (and I’m talking total loss of balance, hearing and inhibition sloppy) that made up about half of the entire crowd that was in the bar at the time. To my surprise, one of the guys in the group abruptly interrupts his furious grinding on his ladyfriend and grabs me as I’m walking by and gives me a bro-hug like I’m his long-lost sibling. I reluctantly let it happen because I could not tell if it was someone I knew or not. This is word-by word the conversation that ensued:

Him: How’s it going man?
Me: Hey, what’s up? (By now I had gotten a clearer look at his face and I was sure there was no chance I knew this person)
Him: You went to school with us right? Points at the sloppy, drunk group.
Me: I’m not sure I don’t really recognize anyone. I graduated in 2006, when did you guys graduate?
Him: Oh no we haven’t graduated yet. We’re still in 11th grade. We graduate next year.
Me: Ummm, I need to go.
I make my way to the bar and over the course of a few hours proceed to drink myself into oblivion.

Next thing I know it’s 4.30 AM and I’m in bed with the computer on my lap, watching a movie while starting some banter on Facebook chat with girls that I haven’t communicated with in years. My go-to line that night was the following:

“First of all before you say anything I need to apologize because I’m shitfaced” Setting the tone.
“Second of all I need to say Hey, how are you?” Being cordial.
“Third, and most important of all, I need to ask how come we never hooked up?” Going in for the kill.

But even after more than hour of that and getting back responses such as “Haha, that’s both random and hilarious at the same time,” and “I never knew you wanted to hook up with me, I should have gone for it,” I was still too wasted to sleep. I needed something to do that did not involve staring at a screen for an extended period of time. The only problem was that it was 6.30 AM.

What can I do at 6.30 AM on Friday morning? Suddenly, I remembered that a friend of mine had told me about this thing called Cairo Runners which takes place at a new location every Friday morning at 7 AM, and that morning it was starting right in front of Gezira Club, next to where I live. So I send him a message asking if he’s still taking part in it, but deep down inside of me, I’m thinking: What are you doing you fool? There’s no way you’re going for a run right now. Let’s hope he’s not going and then go to sleep.

He’s going. I am to meet him downstairs in 5 minutes. I’m fucked, I think as I stumble out of bed, put on some athletic looking clothes and then leave. I hope this little group of runners is not too serious, I think. Who was I kidding? They were running at 7 AM on a Friday. I hoped they were just running for a kilometre or two and this was more of a social thing, rather than purely for exercise purposes. But then I arrived and I realized my expectations of this group had been way off. This was not a casual run amongst a group of 20-30 friends. There were millions of people there (my intoxicated exaggeration), all warming up in perfect synchronization to the orders of one guy standing on a ledge with a megaphone. It immediately reminded me of dictators ordering around their army of disciples. I must have stumbled upon a warm-up for the protests and demonstrations that take place on Friday afternoons… this cannot be right.

Just imagine seeing this as you’re completely plastered and going on 24+ hours of no sleep. Also, the run was apparently going to be a 10K. This will be fun. Headphones on, there’s no turning back now.

The timeline of the run:

0:30 Music on full blast. I feel like I’m still out partying, so instead of running I’m busting out my dance moves.

2:00 I’ve already lost my friend in the crowd. Who will help me out now when I collapse in the middle of the street?

4:00 This is not so bad after all…

5:00 I wonder if anyone else was partying last night and decided to do the same thing I did. Doubtful.

8:00 I look around to see who I’m currently competing with. An overweight 11 year-old and a guy in flip flops. Not too promising.

10:00 We’re running past Sequoia/Left Bank. I have an intense urge to stop running and just go for breakfast.I left my wallet at home. I convince myself that I’m not hungry and continue running.

15:00 I realize that I haven’t consumed any non-alcoholic liquids in over 12 hours. I stop at the nearest koshk. I still don’t have my wallet. No, he won’t give me a free water.

20:00 Two people are holding signs ahead of us. Long run this way. Short run (5K) that way. I want to follow the latter, but obviously everyone around me is doing the long run. I’m not a pussy. Long run it is.

23:00 This was a terrible fucking idea.

25:00 I’m pretty sure I blacked out from this point onwards as I have no recollection of where we were running, who was running around me, and how fast (or rather, how slow) I was running.

Whats Happening?

Somehow I arrived at the finish line. Not many people were there, so I assumed most people had already finished and dispersed. I ask the person in front of me where everyone is.

“Still running.”
“Why, are they running more than 10K?”
“No we just got here before them”
What the fuck?!?!
 “How fast did we finish?”
“I finished in 44 minutes and a little bit, so I guess you finished in like, 45 minutes.”

45 fucking minutes. 10 minutes faster than my friend. Nothing to write home about, but that’s the fastest I’ve ever run a 10K.

I now have an addendum to my DO NOT GO OUT ON THURSDAY rule: If I am forced to go out, then I have to join Cairo Runners at 7 AM the next morning. And I can’t be sober for it.