By Sheelah Turner
Standing in the queue to enter the Formula 1 race circuit on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, there is an air of excitement and anticipation. The sun is low in the sky and the floodlights are about to burst on. There is a chatter and murmur amongst those waiting for the large silver gates to open. But tonight is no Formula 1 event. Rather than arriving to watch a Grand Prix, I have joined a crowd to spend an unusual and thoroughly enjoyable evening running around Yas Marina Circuit.
The gates open and we are ushered to the left. I join the jogging, walking, running people circling clockwise around the outer edge of the racetrack. The super fit, well-toned runners glide effortlessly past the gentle joggers. A small group of club runners trots past a couple of power-walking ladies. A moms’ club chat animatedly to each other while pushing strollers. Everyone is welcome.
But it isn’t only runners using the track. Circling in the opposite direction are bicycles of every description. There are top-of-the-range time-trial bicycles and low-slung bicycles with shopping baskets attached to the front; there are knobbly-tired mountain bikes next to tandem bikes. Two reclining bicycles joined the flow as did a touring bike with a child seat on the back. A fold-up Brompton comes past. Many cyclists hold up their phones — a fun selfie.
About a half mile from the start the main grandstand towers over both sides of the track. Music is blaring out and you can almost hear the crowds cheering. There is a little boost of adrenaline and the pace quickens. Is this what being an elite athlete feels like?
The track bends to the left. Directly ahead, straddling the tarmac, is the Yas Viceroy Hotel with its curved canopy. The sun has almost set and the multi-colored LED roof lights of the hotel add to the magical atmosphere. An extraordinary view for hotel guests on race day, perhaps less appealing watching runners and cyclists circling below.
Beyond the hotel, the track wraps around the boating marina which gives Yas Marina Circuit its name. Luxury super-yachts up to 150 foot and other magnificent vessels lie moored on the water no more than 50 feet from the track. Abu Dhabi is positioning itself as an alternative winter destination for yacht owners.
The cyclists keep circling loop after loop but once around the approximately three-mile racetrack is sufficient for me. I grab a bottle of water and find a small patch of grass to stretch. I can’t help grinning like a Cheshire cat. I’ve run around Stanley Park in Vancouver, The Domain in Sydney, and Richmond Park in London. But none left me with quite as much of a buzz as running on a Formula 1 race circuit in Abu Dhabi.
TrainYas (organized by Activelife) at Yas Marina Circuit is open most Tuesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Entrance is free although you need to register at the desks and collect a wristband. A number of bicycles are available for rent. Free bottled water is available in three locations around the track. Grab a burger at the restaurant overlooking the track when you are finished. And don’t forget your camera!
For additional information: http://www.yasmarinacircuit.com/en/fitness/fitness-activities
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