Endurance Training In Al Ain

Sarah Kelly’s Guide to Training in Al Ain – The UAE’s Garden City

Sarah Kelly presents her guide to endurance training in Al Ain for Athletes Voice. Sarah began her running journey in 2018 and has since achieved a podium finish in every race she has taken part in!

Introducing Al Ain

At the time of writing the UAE remains under lockdown as we try to deal with the threat of COVID 19. Following the UAE government issued recommendations will allow us to defeat this virus and when we do get to resume our outdoor training what better place to regain our fitness than the oasis of the Emirates: Al Ain!!

Located just an hour and a half from Dubai, Al Ain, or the garden city as it is known, is certainly worth the trip for those considering training in new surroundings. As a long term resident of Al Ain I aim to take you on a little journey around the garden city and show you what we have to offer in terms of training in the great outdoors, a luxury I for one will never take for granted again.

Cycling in Al Ain

Cycling is increasing in popularity in Al Ain with several chain-gang style groups getting together in recent years. This year has also seen the opening of the first dedicated bike shop in Al Ain and the formation of Al Ain Triathlon Club, with many members having had success at local races. Al Ain Cycling Track provides the perfect location for both group and solo rides, brick training and any kind of cycling or running.

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A Foggy Morning Ride

The 22.6 km track is located in the North East of the city, close to Al Ain Airport and the Abu Dhabi highway. Fully lit and with plenty of undulation it provides the ideal training ground for cyclists, triathletes and those just looking to keep fit on two wheels. Early mornings are a particularly beautiful time of day on the track.

Toilets and changing rooms are provided at the main entrance. The track is adjacent to the airport road, which on quiet Friday mornings, provides an additional add on distance to the track. Al Ain is a quiet city, and this is reflected on the city’s roads, particularly on weekends.

The track is really the best option as it has recently been completely blocked off to cars. It’s also the perfect place for a brick session. You might have to watch out for camels though!

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Camels on Al Ain Cycling Track

Cycling on Jebel Hafeet’s Mountain Road 

The jewel in Al Ain’s crown in terms of endurance training is undoubtedly Jebel Hafeet. The mountain itself rises between 1,100 and 1,400 feet with the road offering an elevation gain of over 700 ft. The mountain road is incredibly popular with cyclists, who travel to Al Ain specifically to train. A stage of the UAE tour finishes on Jebel Hafeet and some of the worlds greatest cyclists have climbed the gruelling ascent.

The current Strava Jebel Hafeet segment “crown” is held by Spanish Movistar rider Alejandro Valverde. It took him 23 minutes and 18 seconds to climb the 9.2 km section with 663 meters of elevation gain at a speed of 23.7 km/h!

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Cycling on Jebel Hafeet’s Mountain Road 

For us mere mortals the mountain is the perfect place to improve climbing skills. Just make sure you bring enough hydration and nutrition as the climb is tough and in high temperatures even tougher. For those wishing to compete, there is also the Jebel Hafeet cycling race which takes place a couple of times each year.

Hill Training at Jebel Hafeet

Beyond cycling, Hafeet has plenty to offer. The mountain road is also ideal for hill training. On any weekend morning you will find plenty of road runners pounding the unforgiving hills. UAE based athletes training for races such as the Comrades marathon in South Africa or any of Europe’s mountainous ultras are in a great position to take full advantage of the gains training on Hafeet provide. The Jebel Hafeet challenge, which takes place a couple of times a year, allows those with a competitive nature to race locally.

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Hill Training at Jebel Hafeet

Off-road Training at Jebel Hafeet

Off-road, even more treats await you. Jebel Hafeet offers some challenging trails with plenty of elevation and maneuvering to be done. Al Ain resident and trail running coach Tiago Leal has guided many trail runners up and down the Hafeet trails over the last few years. The terrain is rocky and the views are stunning!

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Off-road Training at Jebel Hafeet

Running in Al Wadi Park

In addition to quiet roads and safe footpaths to run on, a basic running track can be found in Al Wadi park, close to the school district. There are also plenty of flat trails to be found throughout the city. Dry wadi beds provide the perfect path during the dry season and close to Al Ain Oasis you will find a beautiful, sheltered run. You might even forget you’re in the desert as you run through the greenery.

Open Water Swim Classes at Wadi Adventure Surf Park

Endurance sports are increasing in popularity in Al Ain. There are a growing number of triathletes dedicating their free time to cycling, running and swimming. Open water swim classes have taken place at Wadi Adventure surf park over the last few years, under the tutelage of Coach Mary Kelley. This is a truly unique place to swim and provides the ideal open water environment, with a stunning backdrop.

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Swimming at Wadi Adventure Surf Park

Ideal for Endurance Training

Al Ain has been home for me for the past 10 years and it really does provide the ideal place for endurance training. Yes, the weather gets hot but it builds strength. It is worth noting that Al Ain avoids the horrible humidity that hits Abu Dhabi and Dubai! Those of us who train through the summer heat welcome the wonderful winter weather and Al Ain is the perfect place to train during the winter.

When the current crisis subsides I think the simple pleasure of training outdoors will take on a new meaning and I hope more athletes will visit the garden city to sample some of the best training the UAE has to offer.

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Posted on 17th Apr 2021