On 28 November 2014, the second edition of the Al Maha Fun Run was raced at the Al Maha resort, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa on the Dubai/Al Ain Road; the event was for both amateurs and expert runners.
Of the two available categories (10 Km and 15 Km), I chose the second, with a route winding in the resort, which is situated within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the first United Arab Emirates national park. The course entailed running on dirt roads with the final 5 kilometers of sandy dunes; it was a true ordeal for the body (if not used to desert racing) and the mind, as the absence of a clearly marked road and having only sand around meant having only the trace of others to follow and no certain path.
Such a new feeling: my first real desert race. I had been planning this for so long and finally the occasion arrived in anticipation of a real marathon. Such a new feeling. A different environment in which to run; no supporters on the road to encourage you. Having only a few participants in the race meant being alone most of the time harboring doubts about the path to follow and fearing being lost. It also meant lacking the motivation given by seeing competitors to pass or incoming runners trying to overtake you. It is, in fact, solitude the toughest opponent in this type of races. When the sun goes down, the temperature drops, and it’s a type of cold you are not ready for. Running on dunes entails using muscles not normally utilized with such intensity; abdominals and back struggle. Occasionally, you spot a camel or an oryx far away in the distance and you are overcome by the desire to leave the path and follow them, wishing you had brought your camera.
Even though there were only a few participants in my category (due also to the difficulty of the competition), emotions ran through my head as in every race: tension before the start, fatigue when still midway through, joy when seeing the finish line. Furthermore, having only a few adversaries led me to my first podium! A second place.
The Al Maha Fun Run was also a charity event. The 100 AED entry fee will be donated to the Starwood’s Roads to Awareness (R2A) campaign supporting UNICEF.
I would like to thank Raffaele Lo Moro that made me aware of this competition opportunity. I would also like to thank Hadinda van Vugt and the staff of the Al Maha resort for their hospitality. Thank you Mary Samele, Francesca Riva and Giorgio Massotti for their indispensable logistical support and Stephan Vanden Auweele for running with me in the 15 Km category.
In particular, I would like to thank Rashid bin Mohammed Al Qubaisi that attended the event and presented prices to the winners. I was honored to cross the finish line accompanied by his two sons.