Saudi Arabia is hot. Yes, that’s right. I find it funny when I see people complaining about the heat in London (around 27 degrees), when it’s been touching 50 for most of the summer here. Apparently there’s a rule here that if the temperature goes above 50, then you can’t work outside. Of course, this never happens. Often the outdoor thermometers are mysteriously stuck at 49.9 degrees. Since I’ve been in Jeddah, it’s been hovering around the 40 degree mark.
Being an Englishman, my body isn’t used to this, but I think I deal with it quite well. Paradoxically, that’s partly because I’m an Englishman; a species obsessed with the weather, an generally moaning about it because it’s so changeable and….crap. So Saudi’s unchangeable, boiling hot, weather is a novelty which I’m not going to complain about (for now). I’m also (unusually for an Englishman perhaps), not terribly unfit. Unlike my co-workers I’m not missing alcohol, and I’m enjoying the largely veggie diet which I’ve stumbled into for cheapness’ sake.
I also enjoy a spot of running and cycling, meaning I’m used to the sweat. In fact I kind of enjoy sweating. I think it’s some sort of weird guy thing. It makes you feel macho or something. And I do sweat lots. Attractive, I know. Anyway, I’m semi-obsessed with cycling, and I’m really missing it. The prospect of cycling in Jeddah is not appealing due to the unsurprisingly chaotic traffic and the state of the roads. The roads are big and wide, as one would expect, but have potholes galore. Anyway, people would look at me as if I was some sort of mentalist. So, running it is then.
I went for my first run a couple of weeks ago…and there were enough people enjoying the standard Saudi exercise of power walking to make me feel like I wouldn’t get stared at too much. It was also evening, so the cover of darkness sheltered me slightly. It felt okay. I survived, and stayed out for about half an hour. I’ve been running and played tennis in Spain at the height of the day, and it felt similar. So, this weekend I thought I’d get up early and try it with the sun in the sky. What difference would that make? It’s hot in the evening anyway!
I’m lazy, so I didn’t get up quite as early as expected, and ended up leaving at about 10am (with the sun pretty high up). This was a major mistake, and by the time I’d made it to the “park” my shirt was soaked, sweat was dripping into my eyes and I was struggling to breathe. People were, understandably, looking at me as if I was a lunatic. This didn’t help my breathing. After trundling around the deserted park and football pitches a few times I began to feel sick. Then my head started throbbing. Then I felt like the sun was burning through my skin, like immediate sunburn. I could barely lift my legs, so, after about 25 minutes outside I decided to call it a day….after one more lap of the football pitch. Once out of the park I made it to the long road to my house which at least had some shade on it. After five more minutes running in the shade I hadn’t cooled in the slightest and had to stop and walk the remaining 500m to my house. I had hoped this would make me feel slightly better. No. I got worse, and started hallucinating slightly, as if I was going to pass out. My nipples really stung too.
I didn’t pass out and I made it to my building, where the doorman asked what the hell I’d been doing. I burbled some sort of answer, or maybe just mimed and then I stumbled straight into a cold shower. In the shower I could hardly breathe. Once I got out I felt sick. Once I lay down I felt like I was passing out and then got a pounding headache which stayed with me for the rest of the day, interspersed with me popping pills. I also drank every drink I could get my hands on.
This run was seemingly a major error.
But, it’s one I’m going to repeat. It probably has something to do with being a man. We tend to be a bit stupid.