JEDDAH: A group of women of different ages lined up behind Rasha Al-Harbi to begin a weekly open air running session in a country where we don’t expect to see many runners along a sea walkway in Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia is full of walkways and parks, you can find a park in every neighborhood. However parks and walkways size differ from one location to the other. It’s actually called a walkway because most of the people there just walk.
The event initially drew the attention of passers-by; however, this has become a normal sight after participants managed to create a women’s community fond of running sports.
Public running for women is not a common thing, however you can notice some in Nahda walkway of Jeddah. If you are a woman and will run in public you must wear your abbaya on.
The group, founded by Al-Harbi and named “Bliss Run”, is a non-profit team interested in promoting women’s health through different sports programs to help women change their daily habits and curb idleness and inactivity. The program also aims to create a healthy, physical and psychological environment through the spread of a fast-walking or running culture in the open air.
When asked why she favors running over walking, Al-Harbi said that running is much better than walking especially if it is practiced in the open air. Initially, participants were appalled, but their stand changed after they began to feel the benefits of running and its positive impact, she told Al Arabiya.
Al-Harbi, who has been running for 14 years, said many of the participants were keen to join the weekly session. Throughout the week, many of them are busy with work, family and house, but the running sessions come as an opportunity to help them get rid of daily stress and anxiety, and to generate mind clarity and relaxation that brings about a better physical and psychological health, she said.
For her part, team leader Abeer Al-Biouk said the team practices many sports under the supervision of experienced sports trainers who were instrumental in encouraging the women to continue to regularly exercise.
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Their activities are not limited to sports as the team has become a women’s community that helps one another. The running community is used to spread awareness and, hence, combines entertainment and awareness.
She said the team aims to reach the largest number of women in the community with a view to creating a suitable healthy, physical and psychological environment through practicing outdoor walking or running for women of any age.
The team also intends to educate women on quick walking in public areas with a strict commitment to wearing decent clothes consistent with applicable laws and regulations, she said.