Many people go that extra mile, but one Emirati always goes a step further than the rest.
Ahmed Al Katheeri became the first person to fly the flag for the UAE earlier this month at the Marathon Des Sables, an historic ultra-marathon staged in the Sahara Desert – unsurprisingly billed as the toughest foot race in the world.
It was by no means Al Katheeri’s first endurance race – he had recently completed the five-day, 270km Al Marmoom Ultra Marathon in Dubai – but he enlisted the help of endurance sports specialists I Love Supersport Dubai to help him reach his goal.
Some 10 weeks later, Al Katheeri was all smiles as he crossed the finish line for his country, after an epic six-day adventure that pushed his body to its limits.
“The conditions were extreme,” admitted the 42-year-old. “It was over 30 degrees in the day time, and at night around 4 or 5, and I had to carry everything with me.
“I was very proud to represent my country and my people, especially without any support from clubs or big companies to find sponsorship.”
As one can imagine, it took meticulous preparation and Al Katheeri honed his nutrition, race strategy, heart rate zones, strength and conditioning, plus technical skills with help from ILSS.
The goal was to finish in very good condition, rather than crawl over the line – and it was mission accomplished.
“Not a huge period of time to do proper work needed for a race like MdS but it looked reasonable keeping in mind Ahmed’s experience – he did a few ultra runs in 2018 including a phenomenal finish at the multi stage one in Dubai,” said Rinat Mustafin, managing partner of ILSS Dubai.
“Ten weeks is not a big period to change something drastically however we made a plan to get best out of it.
“We used the 21k trail race at Mt Sana for a race simulation when Ahmed tested all his gears, clothes, shoes, nutrition, did some tempo work.
“It all seems to have worked well and we are proud of Ahmed’s performance at MdS – he did really solid and great work out there, representing UAE flag for the first time ever in the history.”
Not that Al Katheeri is stopping there.
He plans to run the 100km Race to the Stones in the UK in July, while a desert run in Texas is also in his sights.
The big aim, however, is to become only the ninth person to race in five 250km races in a calendar year on different continents in 2020, including a staggering sub-zero effort in Antarctica.
“I’ll try to make contact with a big supermarket with a big fridge, and put my treadmill there so I can try to practice at cold temperatures,” said Al Katheeri, who resides in Abu Dhabi. “I don’t have enough money to go to Siberia for training!”
But it is desert running that is in his blood and Al Katheeri puts down his love of such extreme competition down to his upbringing in Al Ain.
“I didn’t live far away from the desert – 500m away from the dunes,” he recalled. “When I trained in the desert, I figured out why I love this sport – it takes me back to where I spent my childhood, when we as kids in the afternoon ran on the dunes or played football, and sometimes when it rained and the sand was firm, we took bicycles.
“You do it all from yourself – your own patience, your own love, giving every emotion from your body.”
I Love Supersport Dubai is the premier international endurance sports school. No matter your age or ability, achieve your goals as a swimmer, runner, cyclist and triathlete under the tutelage of some of the region’s best coaches. Visit dubai.ilovesupersport.com for more details.