Runners of all levels will give it their best shot in this year's Dubai marathon
Around 2,600 runners will be hitting the road in the early hours on Friday with one aim in mind - to complete the gruelling 42.195km route that makes up the 2013 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
Few will have Ayele Abshero’s incredible Dubai record of 2hrs, 4 mins 23 seconds in mind, but spectators should be out in force to cheer on the runners of all ages, shapes and sizes as an anticipated field of 20,000 tackles the full marathon, the 10k or 3k fun run.
Filipino debutant Randy Reblora, right, is an inspiration to us all. The bank worker and father of one, only took up running in 2011 and, after starting off around 82kg, he’s lost 10kg. Despite work and family life he fits in five runs a week, and the Nike Running Club member has a personal target of 2013km this year - including his big Dubai date.
He says: “I knew I needed a challenge and boy, I discovered running is a big challenge! But with all these early morning and night runs, you feel much better. It really helps you give up those vices too - you can’t do both!”
Irishman and Dubai Creek Striders member Ulick Burke is another making the step up to marathon distance. With 10k runs, half marathons and triathlons already under his belt he should make the transition comfortably. But his Dubai date is just a stepping stone to the daunting Marathon De Sables in April - a gruelling event in the Sahara Desert, which sees runners take on six marathons in as many days. Because of his unique training regime, Ulick’s dash around Dubai should seem like a breeze - relatively speaking.
He says: “This ties in perfectly as part of the
build-up to the Marathon De Sables. I’m running with my cousin Michael and there’s actually four of us training together. Some of our runs involve running 20k in the desert, camping overnight and then another 20 in the morning - not always pleasant when running in the dark.
At least here there’ll be no sand between your toes, and people will be there to hand out drinks!”
One experienced runner who could teach the novices in the field a thing or two is 64-year-old Malcolm Murphy.
A founding member of the Dubai Creek Striders running club, he has started every Dubai marathon to date and has only failed to finish one because of injury. He explains: “Two of us started this club in 1995, and even though I said I’d never run one - I thought it was too long a distance - I got coaxed into it. I was 50 for my first one and I really suffered as I didn’t train properly. At the time I said ‘never again’ but here I am again.
“There’s something about finishing that first marathon, crossing that line, it’s truly fantastic. Straight away you say ‘never again’ and two days later you’re searching for other marathons to run!”
Margaret Rafferty, 50, is another Strider who’s been bitten by the bug. Along with husband Brian, she’ll be running her eighth Dubai marathon. Impressive stats considering she only took up running as a bid to lose weight while working in Sun City back in 1988. For any novices looking to avoid hitting that dreaded wall - the point where a runner’s glycogen stores are depleted - the Scot has some advice.
“For first-timers the thing to do is try to chat with someone running next to you. If you can talk comfortable you are in your comfort zone and that’s a good place to be - especially in the first half. All marathons are made on the first half, don’t push too far - I’ve never hit the wall yet! If you’ve done the training then it’s 80 per cent mental on race day.”