Imagine this: You’re driving down the road in Riyadh when, all of a sudden, a group of women dressed in abayas come sprinting in the opposite direction, catching your attention. Chances are you’ve just come across the Riyadh Urban Runners (RUR), a group of women who, in 2016, decided to take their passion for running to the streets of their city – no matter what anyone thinks about it.
Goodness caught up with member Amal Maghazil to get some more insights on RUR.
Tell us about your first run.
I still remember the first time I ran the streets of Riyadh with my abaya. I had seen a couple of men running outside, but never women. I was so anxious at first. Most of our female members share the same feelings the first time they run outdoors because it’s so uncommon and unusual. When my first run was over, however, I realized that it wasn’t so bad, so I kept going and encouraged others to try it out.
It is a mental challenge that encourages me to listen to my body all the while pushing it to achieve more.
How many members are there at the moment? How many were there at the start?
We started with three runners in 2016 and have grown to about 60 members. On average, ten to twelve runners attend our weekly runs.
Whose idea was it to start Riyadh Urban Runners?
RUR is a community-based running movement that encourages an active lifestyle. We are part of the Running Collectives, which was initially established four years ago by Jeddah Running Collective (JRC) in the city of Jeddah. RUR was established in December of 2016 by Duaa and Eslam, two JRC members who moved to Riyadh and wanted to continue being part of the emerging running culture.
Have you ever encountered any backlash, whether from people you know or people who see you run by?
When we first started running, because it was so uncommon, we got curious looks from people, but we rarely heard negative comments. Over the past year, we’ve noticed a more significant change in people’s reactions and now hear cheers or encouraging comments, like “Keep going!”
If so, how have you dealt with it?
We kept encouraging each other to focus on the run itself (distance, pace, and so on) and that gradually shifted our thoughts and attention away from what will people might think or say about us.
What has been the response to RUR in general?
We’ve received continuous support from the General Supports Authority (GSA), which has been so motivating for us. To meet Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision when it comes to community sports, the goal is to raise the number people exercising weekly from seven to fifteen percent. We are thrilled to be part of this vision and want to inspire others to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
What does running mean to you?
Running is an easy form of exercise that can be done by anyone, anywhere and at any time. It is a mental challenge that encourages me to listen to my body all the while pushing it to achieve more.
If you live in Saudi Arabia and are interested in joining a running club, click here.
Video: Courtesy of Noon