Runner discovers hidden side of Dubai during city-wide endurance challenge

Lebanese endurance athlete hopes to jog down every one of its streets

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A long-distance endurance athlete who aims to run down every road in Dubai has discovered hidden gems and a side of the emirate rarely seen by tourists.

Yasmine Salaam, 51, a single mother, began her challenge in November 2018. Three years on, the finishing line remains elusive as Dubai continues to grow.

With thousands of kilometres already under her belt, Ms Salaam, who is Lebanese, hopes to complete her monumental task within the next two years. But as Dubai’s urban plans expand, the timeline could extend even further.

Being a woman running these streets alone at all times of day and night and being safe is not something you can do in many other places
Yasmine Salaam

What began as a novel way to train for marathons, inspired by American Rickey Gates who ran every road in San Francisco in a similar challenge, has become an odyssey as she discovers hidden corners of the city.

“Dubai is a huge metropolis and can compare with any other big city like Hong Kong, London, New York or Paris,” said Ms Salaam, who lives near the Dubai International Financial Centre.

“It is that big and has the huge variety of communities seen in those cities.

“Dubai is more than just the boulevards of Burj Khalifa. The diversity and security I’ve felt have been highlights so far.

“Being a woman running these streets alone at all times of day and night and being safe is not something you can do in many other places.”

Ms Salaam began her adventure during the 2018 Dubai Fitness Challenge.

She uses an app called CityStrides to track streets she has run, rather than the total kilometres covered.

When she turned 50 in 2021, she ran 50km from Mirdif to Khawaneej to celebrate the landmark.

More than halfway through challenge

The only rules of her challenge are to stay away from major highways where it is dangerous for pedestrians, and to run every route mapped out by the Roads and Transport Authority.

So far, Ms Salaam has run across almost 60 per cent of the city’s streets.

“It is difficult as communities are growing or new ones are being built so I have to keep going,” she said.

Her longest daily run is about 30km, and the shortest is around 8km.

Running continues through the summer, albeit in lower mileage.

In the next four months, she expects to cover about 10 per cent of the city’s streets.

The ultra-endurance runner chooses to run in the early hours of the morning or late at night, particularly during the hot summer months, as there are fewer cars.

“People are either going to work, or coming home from a night shift,” she said.

“The most interesting part is seeing how people go about their lives.

“They can be construction workers, truck drivers and security guards — or sometimes just white collar workers and women, like hotel workers.

“It is definitely an eye-opener to see how Dubai works.”

Ms Salaam said her travels so far are a world away from the glitzy veneer portrayed in recent documentaries on Dubai.

“My journey is almost like an urban study of a modern city.”

Updated: January 16, 2022, 5:15 AM