MUSCAT: The Moroccan athlete led a 100-strong international field across the finish line on the Arabian Sea to confirm his ranking as number one in the world.
He crossed the line closely followed by his younger brother Mohammed, who is also ranked in the world top-10, and Omani star Sami Al Saidi.
The two mounted a strong challenge to El Murabity – a four-time winner of his country’s famous Marathon Des Sables – and the trio were the only runners to have a combined time across the six stages of less than 15 hours.
El Murabity’s total elapsed time of 14 hours 23 minutes and 42 seconds saw him finish three minutes and 12 seconds ahead of his sibling, with Al Saidi less than two minutes further back.
Another running star from Morocco, Aziza Alraji, won the women’s race in a time of 23:33:31 more than three hours ahead of French athlete Kathleen Leguin and Britain’s Karen Day.
“I have spent a great time with friends and I am really happy to have won the sixth Oman Desert Marathon,” said El Murabity at the finish. “It is a marathon which has been very well organised, and I thank the director for all he has done.”
Al Saidi, who was a member of one of three Royal Army of Oman teams taking part, said: “I am very happy to have reached the finish of the Oman Desert Marathon. The finish was very hard after six days in sand, sand and even more sand, but that is the Oman Desert Marathon. I am happy to be able to celebrate with my friend Rachid El Murabity.”
Runners from 23 nations took part including a 35-strong contingent from Oman. Italy, France, the UK, Holland and Germany also had a significant presence, with other athletes from Australia, Canada, Brazil, South Africa and the US also among those competing.
While the elite runners were a class apart so far as the results went, the sense of achievement in taking on the challenge and succeeding was common to all.
Venezuelan runner Rigel Cedeno perhaps spoke for many when she said at the finish: “It has been very emotional – before, I thought it was impossible but now I have conquered the desert!”
The Oman Desert Marathon required the runners to be almost entirely self-sufficient, with only water being available at regular checkpoints along the course. They experienced a variety of landscapes and conditions, as well as the ever-present sand dunes, including a long 42km night stage under the desert stars.
“The sixth Oman Desert Marathon has again proved to be a great success, with the runners able to experience and enjoy the magic of the desert,” said race organiser Said Al Hajri.
“For everyone who took part it will no doubt live long in the memory. We look forward to welcoming old friends back in 2019 and offer the opportunity to others to come and see the unspoilt beauty of Oman.”
The sixth edition wouldn’t have been successful without the support of a number of sponsors including the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Sports Affairs, Tanfeedh, the government’s economic diversification initiative, Arabian Oryx Camp, Pocari Sweat, Mwasalat, Oman Cement Company, Oman Airports, Tanuf and Omantel.