The Wings for Life was a great event to be a part of and to see over a thousand people running in stifling Dubai heat at more or less peak sun at 3pm is testament to the will and enthusiasm of every participant.
The conditions were far from ideal to be running in compared to the other countries hosting the event across the world, but there was an excellent vibe at the Dubai Autodrome and people got into the spirit of the occasion.
The UAE seems to come together for running events and this was indeed no different. There was a real community atmosphere as they lined up alongside several physically-challenged athletes.
I started the race alongside athletes from Emirati Fitness. The first 5km topsy-turvy loop around the Autodrome was really tough, it felt like running in a sauna and it didn’t get any easier at the 6th, 7th or 8th km mark.
As a long-distance runner myself, once I got past the tricky opening stages I started to get more into a rhythm and relished the tough experience.
The trickiest part I found in temperatures over 40 degrees and more, given the heat reflection off the tarmac on the road, was controlling fluid consumption.
In hindsight, I probably drank too much water and energy drinks, which ultimately sent my body into more of a recovery mode earlier than you want in a run with extreme heat.
Running is definitely a mental sport and it was a balancing act to control what my body needed when you are losing so much sweat too.
Nevertheless, I was pleased to run a half marathon distance and it was a good building block for a full marathon I’m doing at the end of the month in Copenhagen.
Both men’s and women’s division winners in Dubai deserve enormous credit. Hats off to Helder Santos, who clocked 54km, which was as good as the 88.44km mark set by Global Champion Giorgio Calcaterra given the incredibly difficult conditions he faced in Dubai compared to running in other cities.
Colombia’s Carolina Gutierrez produced a stirring effort too, finishing 21.52km. She flew past me around the 16-17km mark with ease and looked as though she was thriving in the conditions.
A record 130,732 registered participants took to start lines at 34 locations in 33 countries on Sunday for the third annual Red Bull Wings for Life World Run.
With no pre-determined finish line, runners had to keep pace ahead of the catcher car, this year a BMW X5 driven by Arab TV personality Mustafa Agha, his car acting as the moving finish line for entrants.
In total the global run has made over Dhs27.6m, all of which going towards finding a cure for spinal cord injuries that affect millions of lives worldwide.
Rashed – a Real Madrid and Al Wasl fan – is the son of Saif Ahmed Belhasa who is one of the UAE’s most successful businessmen.