cover image

Illustration by Dhabi AlMansoori

Running in a Pandemic

Running competitions start again in Abu Dhabi with enhanced safety protocols and renewed enthusiasm.

Oct 11, 2020

On July 18, the Abu Dhabi Sports Festival kicked off in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, advertised as “the first organized group run” in Abu Dhabi during the Covid-19 pandemic. The first of three summer indoor runs was the Yas Mall Run, which had the option of a 10 km, 5 km or 2.5 km race. While registrations were initially capped at 400 racers according to an ADSC email, the actual number of participants was learnt to be around 470. Programming continued under strict health and safety protocols, culminating in the 9th Annual Pink Run at Zayed Sports City on October 9th.
The Pink Run has been an annual highlight for members of the NYU Abu Dhabi community who have actively engaged with it as volunteers, racers and announcers. The run focuses on creating breast cancer awareness and proceeds from the race are donated to the Al Jalila Foundation for Breast Cancer Initiatives. An amount in excess of 350,000 AED has been donated in the past eight years.
The Gazelle reached out to Qiongli Darroch, an accountant at Gulf Multi Sport, the event management company that manages the Pink Run. In addition to her role as an accountant, she helped out in event merchandise and aspects of organization on the race day. She shared with us a document that included details of safety protocols and a “Runners’ Pledge”.
When asked about the protocol that was being planned for the Pink Run, where she expected 700-800 participants, Darroch detailed a number of steps put in place to ensure minimum contact between the racers.
“We follow very strict protocols, we make sure all the participants, when they come in … we check their temperature, we sanitize the hands and we always remind them everyone must [practice] social distancing, and we also make sure that [there is] no gathering after the finish line.”
According to the document she shared, participants were instructed to enter the venue only 10 minutes before the start time. For the race itself, Darroch described a system of placing racers in a socially distanced queue, with four runners periodically forming a row at the start line, standing two meters apart. Racers were dispersed with a gap of 30 seconds between each row. Appropriate masks were a requirement for all movement in the venue. Runners were allowed to remove their masks only during the race provided that distance was maintained.
According to the document, the medal presentation ceremony was suspended. “On the finish line, we have a stand where we hang the medals. All the medals are put up by our volunteers and they all wear gloves and put the medals on the hanger … They’re all being sanitized and sprayed,” shared Darroch. She added that the biggest challenge that they faced was to make sure people disperse immediately after the race ends while wearing their masks.
Wayne Young, Director of Wellness at NYUAD, is both a runner and an advocate of breast health awareness. He was also the announcer for the Pink Run on Friday. He shared his experience of announcing the race with The Gazelle and how that role has changed since last year.
“It's been much safer than I could [have] expect[ed], and everybody is wearing a mask until they started running … I felt pretty comfortable … I think people have enjoyed being able to get out in that running community and feel connected,” Young said.
Even as the race was conducted under strict, time-sensitive protocols, Young felt that the spirit of the community coming together was still present.
“You know, we actually talked about breast cancer and breast health a little … We actually did a moment of silence, let people think about somebody who [they] may have lost to breast cancer … there were some people there running who are survivors, people going through treatment right now … there's still that community feel to it.”
Angad Johar is Senior News Editor. Email him at
gazelle logo