Running in the Middle East | Where’s YiOu?

YiOu Wang
by YiOu Wang
Share it:
Running in the Middle East | Where’s YiOu?

What would you do if you were given the opportunity of a lifetime but it meant leaving the life and routine you loved?

In early August, I packed two duffel bags and embarked on a 10-month trip around the world. My life up until this point was as an eighth-grade teacher and professional trail runner. It was fulfilling, engaging and exciting. I enjoyed my routines: training, teaching and racing on the weekend. I had just signed with Under Armour and put together a strong spring racing season. But then I was given a job opportunity which involved 10 months of travel. I decided to leave what I knew behind to take the ultimate trip, expand my horizons and take my running shoes all over the world. I am extremely fortunate my husband, Sean, is able to come on this journey with me, and we are both excited to tackle a brand new challenge.

I decided to leave what I knew behind to take the ultimate trip, expand my horizons and take my running shoes all over the world.”

Between now and June 2018 I will visit 30 countries to learn, experience, absorb and immerse myself in as many different cultures as possible. In the first week alone we visited Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Petra, Mt. Nebo, the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum and Aqaba. I had never been to the Middle East before; the environmental and cultural differences were astonishing.

The city of Tel Aviv is young, hip and modern. It is an architectural mishmash of new glass high rises and the ancient narrow streets of Jaffa. My usual routine for running while traveling is to do some preliminary research on popular running routes and then get out at sunrise. Running early in the morning was especially important in Tel Aviv due to the summer heat and humidity. It was almost 80 degrees with 80% humidity at 6 a.m.! I headed for the promenade along the Mediterranean Sea and was surprised to find it packed with early morning runners, cyclists, surfers and beach volleyball players. I ran 9 miles along the waterfront and saw a gorgeous sunrise over the city. Running is an exceptional way to meet new people and talk about a shared passion. I even did an interview on the run with a publisher of an Israeli running website!

In contrast to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and a holy site for three major religions. We took a walking tour of the Old City and explored many of the famous sites I learned about in history class. I especially enjoyed learning about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its importance to the many different sects of Christianity.

After visiting Jerusalem, we crossed Allenby Bridge into the deserts of Jordan. We spent a full day exploring the lost city of Petra, built by the Nabataeans in the fourth century B.C. and rediscovered in 1812. The building facade known as The Treasury, made famous by “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” was truly stunning. Running in the vicinity of Petra was more complicated than in Tel Aviv. The area is relatively undeveloped and still populated by Bedouin tribes. It was also the height of summer and enveloped in intense heat. I opted to run on the treadmill at our hotel in the interest of safety and comfort. Since my heat stroke experience at Western States, I’ve been extremely cautious of overexertion in high temperatures.


In the footsteps of archaeologist T. E. Lawrence I ventured further into the desert with a visit to Wadi Rum. This incredible place is also known as The Valley of the Moon and its stark landscape is punctuated by sandstone mountains. The experience of camping overnight in the desert was atmospheric and enthralling. I snuck in a few miles running and rock scrambling while the rest of our group was being driven back to the main visitor’s center. Sometimes while traveling and working, you have to grab the opportunities to run at a moment’s notice. I would love to go back to Wadi Rum for a trail race some day.


> Men’s Running Gear
> Men’s Running Shoes
> Women’s Running Gear
> Women’s Running Shoes

About the Author

YiOu Wang
YiOu Wang

YiOu is an elite trail and ultra runner for Under Armour. She is the 2017 50Km Trail National Champion and a two-time winner of the Lake Sonoma 50 mile. YiOu is spending a year traveling and running around the world. You can follow her adventures at and on Instagram @ywangruns.


Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MapMyRun desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest running advice.


Click the 'Allow' Button Above


You're all set.

You’re taking control of your fitness and wellness journey, so take control of your data, too. Learn more about your rights and options. Or click here to opt-out of certain cookies.