While most people were sunning themselves on beaches around the UAE last weekend, a gruelling race of attrition was taking place at Al Qudra in Dubai.
The Backyard Ultra is a form of ultramarathon where competitors must run 6.7km on the hour every hour, until only one runner is left standing.
When each lap is completed, the remaining time within the hour is typically used to recover and re-hydrate for the next hour’s race.
Irishman Mark Haigney won the race with 25 loops (167.5km) over a mammoth 25 hour period, while second place went to Dubai-based Rob Jones who ran a stunning 24 laps (161km) over 24 hours.
Belfast-born Jones, who has been living in the UAE since 2010, is no stranger to endurance races having won the Wadi Bih Hatta 70km in November and followed it up with a formidable finish at the arduous UTMB Oman 137km in December.
“The race at the weekend was brutal. I knew it was going to be hard. You think you can run 6.7km on the hour every hour. But it’s tough trying to get the food in between with the remaining time you have until you have to run on the hour again,” said Jones.
“It was a serious challenging but really enjoyable to be part of a race of its calibre.”
While Jones’ long-term focus for 2019 will be the UTMB Chamonix – a stunning 171km single-stage race through France, Italy and Switzerland – he is set to compete in the Urban-Ultra Hajar 100km on February 15 as well as the Mount Sana 60km on Mach 22.
Two events that will give him ideal preparation before tackling one of the world’s most extraordinary races in France at the end of August.
“The Alps is one of my favourite places in the world to visit. UTMB Chamonix is the high point of racing in Europe with tough qualification criteria so I’m super excited to train and get ready to show the world what a runner in a country with ‘no hills’ can do,” said the 33-year-old.
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