May 25, 2020

Running in Casablanca

Scenic El Hank lighthouse at sunset.

Most tourists briefly transit the port city of Casablanca en route to further afield. And while the largest city in Morocco is more of the economic engine of the country than a touristic stop, it’s one of those towns that dot each region filling a vital role: it’s a place for trekkers and travelers to get things done.

And we did just that this week, as we got some key pieces of clothing replaced, after a through search of several malls in the town. I’ve been holding my old running shoes together with duct tape for the last few months, no lie. Not only are Bigfoot American size 12 shoes a rarity in Morocco, but apparently, duct tape is a luxury item as well.

Successfully finding a new pair of running shoes was an exercise in studying conversion tables online and guessing Euro vs UK vs US shoe sizes, an approximate but arcane art at best. I couldn’t really afford to be choosy, as we had to work from the subset of shoes that were at least a US size 11 ½. Suffice to say, we have shiny new Asics… that are the very first running shoes that we’ve owned in highlighter yellow. Hey, at least they’ll never get lost in the shuffle…

And we’ve found a great course to run along the Casablanca waterfront, very flat, even pavement and fast. Starting at the beautiful Hassan II mosque (largest in Morocco, Africa, and the tallest minaret, in fact, the tallest religious structure of any kind in the world, topping 210 metres in height) it’s a great waterfront run to the south along the sweep of the bay to the Phare d’el Hank lighthouse. You can circle the lighthouse (a few friendly neighborhood dogs will give you a playful chase, helping to keep your pace up) and back to the mosque is a good even 3.1 mile/ 5K run.

There’s just a tiny slope of uphill and downhill to and from the lighthouse, then it’s a flat run back. What I really like about the Casablanca waterfront run is you can see your destination on both ends throughout the entire length of the course. I also see local runners and walkers utilizing the course throughout the day. You’re also assured a good sea-breeze in at least one direction or another. Wind from the south means hot and dry air off of the Sahara, while a north wind means damp and cool air off of the Atlantic.

The course was also a great break-in for our new shoes. We typically also use our runs in a new town for recon and familiarization. Where’s the nearest ATM? Bus or tram stop? Any interesting restaurants nearby?

The waterfront road in Casablanca isn’t really a running path per se, but it is largely free of traffic and has even pavement. Inland in the city, all bets are off, as you’re back into urban running, with traffic, uneven sidewalks, and potholes and obstacles of all sizes. A definite slow down on a fast run, for sure.

Well, we’re here for one more week, then we’re striking out southward. Thus far, our ‘hug the coast’ strategy has served us well to stay cooled off as we approach the first days of July.

Stay tuned… hey, if you know any great places to run in Morocco, let us know!


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