21 Jan Stage One: The Castle
Stage One: The Castle
42 runners from 11 different countries gathered by the historical Al Wasil Fort earlier today to run a 165 km in the sands of Wilayat Bidiyah. This year’s edition also included amateur runners, with the addition of a 10 km, followed by shorter distances of 5 km and 2 km (children’s race).
After the 165 km runners passed the enthusiastic amateur racers, traditional Omani band and the camels, they crossed the oasis of Bidiyah, and enjoyed the shade and freshness of the palm trees. Their first 15 km consisted of small dunes, with some ups and downs. While this stage may look easy, it is actually difficult, as at this point, the runners are still adjusting to the environment, and their backpacks are at their heaviest.
It usually takes a while to acclimate to the dessert, but today’s weather was pleasant for around 70% of the day, with highs of 24 degrees Celsius, and lows of 13 degrees.
At around 24 km, the famous brothers, Rashid and Mohammed El Morabity were going head-to-head, and on day one, Mohammed ended up getting the upperhand by a mere eight minutes.
Soon after the Moroccan brothers made it to 23 km of the route, they were followed by Omani runners, Saleh Alsaidi and Sami Alsaidi.
Rashid said the weather was pleasant, adding that he enjoyed the varied terrain, which included wadis, high dunes, and flat surfaces. This year the terrain was unusually green, due to the rains that fell over the area in recent days.
As the runners delved deeper into the desert they occasionally came across friendly faces from one of the many dessert camps nearby, that encouraged them to push through.
The compact sand will help runners move quickly towards massive dunes, and as they moved further into the dessert, they were met with small bushes. The presence of Bedouin settlements and breeding areas for camels and goats nearby, are common in the desert, and Wilayat Bidiyah is famous within the Gulf region for its camel racing competitions.
Once they passed the massive dunes, the runners enjoyed of a gradual descent of 200 m.
Unfortunately there were three dropouts today. After making it through 30 km, Italian runner Mauro Nadalutti decided that he did not want to continue, in spite of his good spirits, as he did not have the mental strength to tackle Oman’s rough dessert. Despite dropping out of the race however, Nadalutti decided to continue enjoying the dessert and cheering on his tent mates.
Morocco’s Mohammed Al Morabity came in first today, with a time of 3:53:31, stealing the crown from his brother, Rachid El Morabity, who arrived eight minites later, at 4:01:51 and said that he enjoyed going head-to-head with his brother.
Oman’s Saleh Alsaidi came in third place, with a finishing time of 4:19:34 ,followed by the Sami Alsaidi who arrived at 4:30.19.
On the women’s side Morocco’s Aziza Elmarany, proved her athleticism with an impressive finishing time of 5:31:29, and she was shortly followed by Aziza Raji, who crossed the finish line at 5:37:53. The Swiss, Corina Sommer adapted well to the dessert, finishing day one as the third woman, with a time of 5:45.47.
Tomorrow the racers have an even longer route! We wish them all the best!