MUSCAT: The sixth edition of the Oman Desert Marathon is again set to attract a diverse group of ultra-athletes keen to take on the challenge of the 165km route.
Starting from Bidiyah on November 17, 107 runners from 23 countries will take on six stages over successive days across a varied landscape of sand dunes and through palm groves and villages to the finish on the shore of the Arabian Sea.
The race requires all the runners to be entirely self-sufficient for the duration of the event and carry all their equipment, though water is supplied at checkpoints every 10km along the demanding course.
“Runners taking part in the previous five marathons have all had the chance to experience the authentic and unspoilt beauty of the Omani desert as well as the warmth of our legendary hospitality,” said race organiser Said Al Hajri.
In addition to an array of local partners who have pledged support for the event such as the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Sports Affairs, the race has gained the backing of Tanfeedh, the government’s economic diversification initiative which has identified the fast-growing global sports tourism sector as a key focus for the Sultanate.
“We have worked with local communities and our international partners, and with the support of local and national organisations all is now in place to present the magic of the desert and its dunes to a new group of adventurous runners,” Al Hajri added.
This year’s edition has attracted 35 local participants including Sami Al Saidi who came second in last year’s edition and Moosa Al Balushi who was in fourth place. Other participants taking part include Morocco’s No.1 Rachid Al Murabity and Mohamad Al Murabity, one of the top 10 runners in the world, Evgenii Galiva, a 200-km non-stop race champion from Ukraine and Aziza Al Raji, one of the world’s top 10 female runners from Morocco.
The rest of the runners are from countries such as Italy, France, the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Australia.
Runners will take on six stages of 25, 20, 26, 27, 42 and 23km respectively, with the longest being the fifth stage a night marathon with ascents and descents of around 1,500m.
The third stage on November 19 is anticipated to be a make-or-break moment for the runners. Coming at the event’s half-way point after two days of challenging conditions it will test the runners’ preparation and self-sufficiency as it includes seven climbs and a long soft sand section.