Before my trip to Saudi Arabia, I was looking for information about running here and found very little. I’m still no expert but in the three runs I’ve done, I already learned a lot. Hopefully this will be helpful to others making a trip here.
The first thing most people told me about running in Saudi Arabia is that no one does it. I was told (and read online) that the Saudis don’t really exercise much and that running, in particular, is almost completely unheard of. Need water? Bring cash and buy a bottle on the run.I’m in a very different place than that. By luck, my hotel is close to Tahlia Walkway which is a great place to walk or run. Tonight there were hundreds of people out. Most were families or groups of friends walking but there were also groups and individuals running. The whole thing is about 4km long with benches and even a chin-up bar. Every 100m or so, there’s a cooler with bottled water and a money box asking for 1 SAR per bottle. As long as you’re not hoping to run a sub-20 minute 5k, there will be people out there at your ability level.
Next, don’t wear shorts. This advice came up many times with some people saying you can get away with 3/4 length shorts but even that would raise eyebrows. My first run here, I went out in track pants at 11:00pm. It was still way too hot for full trousers, even light-weight ones. Luckily the next day I drove past Tahlia Walkway. There were many people out running in knee-length or just-above-the-knee shorts. With that encouragement, my next two runs were in my “long” running shorts which come down to about my knee and so far, no one has complained.
Finally, it’s hot and humid here which impacts your running. Not a big surprise, this one’s completely true. Not much to be done about this but keep it in mind. With a breeze on each of my runs, it hasn’t felt too bad until I stop and realize I’m drenched. I’m also going a bit slower.
I’ve been told that Riyadh is a very different picture so I would investigate more if you’re going somewhere else in Saudi. So far, the running in Jeddah has been much better than I’d feared. Have you run there? Add any advice you’d give people visiting the city in the comments below and have fun running.