Running Baghdad

Summary: It’s time for another deviation from the regular writing, to talk about running in Iraq.  As an Army guy, well, I’ve run there a bit.  And it looks like I’ll be running there some more.  I am just back from a short visit to Baghdad, where I was able to sneak in 5 runs and about 66 miles of running.  Almost all of it was before the sun came up, in part to beat the heat but also in part due to jet lag (it’s 13 time zones from Hawai’i, after all).

The Good:  It’s flat.  How flat?  Think 80 to about 120 feet in elevation.  It’s flat.  And it’s secure.  I know, I know — it’s Iraq, and “secure” is a relative term.  But if you’re going to run in Iraq, this is a pretty good place to do it.  Also, there are gyms sprinkled all over the place, with plenty of cold water (and more pallets out in the open, all over the place).   And if you can adjust to running there, you can often find yourself running alone.  And with as many exterior lights as there are in the area, it’s pretty easy to run on moonless nights without a flashlight.

The Bad:  The scenery is pretty set.  Not a lot of variety when you’re confined to an American base.  And there’s not a lot to do to change that.  And being an Army base, there’s no running with an iPod or earphones.  Blah.  It’d also be easy to poo-poo the roads, but they’re actually in fair shape.  There’s one stretch that has some especially ugly speed bumps — not low, round ones, but rather some high, triangular ones that I think were built to trip runners.

The Ugly:  OMFG, it gets hot.  I ran one evening, at around 8pm and just after the sun had gone down, and the residual heat coming from the road and land was enough to kill a man.  That run — just 9 miles — used the full 3 liters in my Camelbak, after having tanked up on a liter plus before the run, and I still was dehydrated when it was over.  Somewhere over Iowa is a huge rain cloud, fed by the water sucked out of me when I was running in Iraq.

Type of route: Paved road that were likely made by the lowest bidder.
Good to run in the rain? Rain?  In Iraq?  Sure — if it rains, go ahead and keep running.

Length: 18 miles.  I did two laps of this 9 mile route.

Options for the route:  Not really.  9 miles is about as far as one can run around the lakes.  However, there are other options, for running around the airport.

Elevation change on the run:Maybe 40 feet, tops.  It’s Iraq — flat .
Water used:  All that I could carry.  If I could have figured out a way to run with a 10 gallon jug, I would have.  For the 18 miles, I drank 5+ liters, and still came up short.

Where to start: Base of Signal Hill
Where to park:  Right — like anyone has a car.
Point your car’s GPS towards: Um….

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

Water? Yes, at the gym
Toilets? Porta-potties all over the place.
Medical care? Best in the world, all just a MEDEVAC flight away.
Ranger / park folks? No, but a lot of armed people are in the area.
Picnic areas? Actually, yes — along Z Lake there are some.
A place to change afterwards? Nothing special, no.

Rewards in the area:  Cookies & Cream at the DFAC, any time of the day or night.

You’d run this route when….you’re deployed there for the year.

My rating:  4

Music:  None.  Yeah, that sucks.

Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (not required)

More reading: here and here. Flickr: here and here. More photos: hereState Park Info: Just kidding