Muscat: More than 100 runners from 27 nations across the world will arrive in Oman to take part in the fifth edition of the Oman Desert Marathon, which begins on National Day.
The first of the 131 runners are already in Oman and have begun their final preparations for this challenge, which is considered one of the most punishing and challenging endurance races in the world.
The six-day race will begin on November 18 at Al Wasil oasis in the town of Bidiyah Saturday morning and will conclude on the shores of the Arabian Sea.
The race course is 165km long and is spread across six stretches of varying length — 25km, 20km, 27km, 28km, 42km and 23km — with each of these encompassing a variety of landscapes, ranging from the sandy dunes of the Arabian desert to the verdant surroundings of the wadis, thereby presenting a series of challenges to the runners to test their skill and endurance.
Sami Al Saidi, Oman’s best long-distance runner, and Mohammed El Morabity, who, together with his brother Rachid, is considered one of the best among the world’s endurance athletes, are expected to lead the racers.
“It is an honour to participate in this race, but I wish my brother was here alongside me,” said El Morabity.
“Unfortunately, he is injured, so I will have to do my best for both of us. Being a long-distance endurance runner is not easy, and many of my friends ask me why I do this, but the simple answer is that this is my passion.
“I have to make many sacrifices, because I cannot always eat what I want, whenever I want, even when my friends ask me to go out with them for pizza, because my body needs to be conditioned to last for long periods,” he added.
“It is very important for me to stick to a strict regime, to be disciplined, to eat in moderation and correctly, as well as to sleep regularly and on time. That is the foundation I need to set up if I need to do well.”
While checkpoints have been set up every 10km at the marathon to provide the athletes with water and first aid, should they need it, they are responsible for their own food and sustenance.
Sami Al Saidi is only too aware of exactly what is needed to sustain athletes during the extreme conditions of the race.
“In preparation for the race, proteins are important, but I cannot eat meat, because they are heavy and take time to digest,” revealed Al Saidi.
“Instead, I rely on legumes and beans to provide me with the muscle tone and stamina for the race. I have had to set aside many personal priorities to take part in this race.
“I spend two hours a day, both in the morning and evening, to prepare myself for this race, because I want to bring a good name to the Sultanate when I represent my country here,” he stressed.
The Oman Desert Marathon is the brainchild of Said Mohammed Al Hajri, and is run in cooperation with the Ministry of Sports, Ministry of Tourism and the National Youth Commission, with Mwasalat, the National Mineral Water Company and Sundus Rotana providing logistics, water and accommodation to the athletes and other officials.
“We have chosen Al Wasil as the location, so that we can inspire the youth to take part in the future as well,” remarked Al Hajri. “The race is now in its fifth year, and is known as one of the toughest and most testing endurance challenges in the world, so I look forward to welcoming all the participants.”