Yasmine Salaam is on a quest to sprint down every street in Dubai. Her only problem is that Dubai keeps building new streets!
Also known as “Pinktaxi_Runner,’’ the 51-year-old athlete runs across older districts like Karama and Satwa, as well as urban hotspots such as the waterfront Dubai Marina and JBR neighborhoods.
The Dubai-based Lebanese expat mother of three began her fitness journey when she was 41. After discovering how well she performed in spinning classes, she took it a step further and started long-distance running.
“I have run 11 marathons all over the world, and also ultra-marathons in South Africa and trail runs in Switzerland,” said Salaam. Her most recent race was a half marathon (21km) in Marjan Island, in the UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah last month.
Salaam said that she was inspired by Ricky Gates, an American athlete who ran every street in San Francisco, U.S, in 2018. “I asked Gates if he thought I could do Dubai and which application he used for his map, and then I got started in November 2018,” she said.
Salaam ran 63.4 percent of Dubai’s streets, though increasing that percentage has been challenging. “Dubai keeps building new streets, so the percentage doesn’t move because it’s me against the city that is growing.”
She discovers the constant changes in Dubai as she runs. “There is always a new street, a new neighborhood, a new building, a new restaurant or a café. I sometimes have to go back to neighborhoods I thought I had finished because even there they added a street,” she said.
Salaam finds Dubai safe for a woman to run on her own. The rare challenges she has faced throughout her journey were to run on the streets of Dubai’s large gated communities. “Sometimes, the security guards of gated communities won’t allow me to enter so I have to pretend that I live there and sneak in just to run,” she said.
The athlete did not pause her fitness challenge when Dubai went on a lockdown at the start of the Covid pandemic in 2020. “I kept running up and down the stairs and corridors in my apartment building, and I also found the parking lot to be good, so I kept running up and down the ramps and did a cross-fit training session every day at home.”
Salaam said that she runs throughout the year, except in July and August when she escapes the city’s heat — which sometimes reaches 48.5°C — by traveling outside the UAE. In June and September, when temperatures are still relatively high, she runs from 5 am to 7 am before the sun becomes too strong.
Salaam plans her running tracks according to the seasons, the heat and the challenges they present. “I was smart not to finish all the interesting parts first and to be left with the hard parts only,” she said. “I mix it a lot, and I do most of the hard parts out in the desert in the winter. In the summer, I run closer to the sea or in shaded areas.”
Despite her race against the city’s never-ending growth, Salaam hopes that she will accomplish her dream of running every street in Dubai. “I think very optimistically that I will reach my goal within 18 months.”