The inaugural edition of a five-year franchise, the Oman leg of the UTMB race series took place in the Dakhiliyah Governorate on November 29, 2018.
Race Director Glynn Broomberg, and the Head of the Organising Team, Event Director Andy McCann were adamant later that it could not have happened without the unprecedented level of community involvement they have been fortunate to engage with from the start line at Birkat al Mouz, to the finish line at Al Hamra.
“From the time the course was being mapped out, to making new, safer tracks in ‘risky’ environments, to taking advice on support points and overall health and safety concerns, local identities were always part of the consultation process,” said Communications Director Assim al Saqri.
With the race beginning on November 29, at the bottom of the mighty Jabal Akhdhar, in the quiet village of Birkat Al Mouz, 455 athletes traversed the heights of Jabal Akhdhar, through the Alila Resort Complex, across the green mountains to Jebel Shams and Misfat Al Abriyeen, concluding at Al Hamra.
“We were already winners,” said McCann, “because one of our most significant objectives was to imprint the event with a ‘community dna,’ and the success of the event from that perspective was already ensured by the local community.”
Pointing to the more than 100 local volunteers, the partnerships established with local businesses, civic authorities and householders, the organisers were emphatic they could not have asked for more.
Broomberg, a previous organiser of the massively successful ‘Cape Epic’ event in South Africa, agreed that the scale of enthusiasm and assistance they had encountered was “phenomenal. We have for example the Al Hamra Football Club, who just ‘gave us’ their club rooms for a week, their local community organised a football tournament to run in conjunction with our race, and another group had a ‘fun run.’ It’s just amazing.”
Community it seems, takes on a whole new meaning away from the bright lights of the city, and it’s not all one-way traffic either, as Sandeep Jaitly, General Manager and CEO of the Golden Tulip Hotel Nizwa, the race organisation base, and staging point for much of the event, explained that an open invitation had been extended to the local population to enjoy his establishments hospitality, by way of a thank you from the organiser’s and around 500 locals availed themselves of the free food on offer at each of the start and finish points of the event.
“This is the biggest thing to come to the region in a long time,” he said, “and the organiser’s dedication to utilizing local tradesmen, services, and businesses, is a welcome boost, not only economically, but in terms of demonstrating our capability to respond to the myriad of challenges that come with hosting such events, in the regional areas. It’s fantastic that the event organisers, Oman Sail, haven’t just talked about it, but have consciously and actively promoted the region, through its people.”
Elite athletes to weekend warriors, housewives, soldiers, students and shopkeepers, came from all over the world to line up on the start line for this unique event, which will become a ‘must do,’ for extreme sports enthusiasts around the world.
A success before it began, off the tracks and trails of the mountains, the event has drawn so much praise from participants, including the joint winners, Jason Schlarb and Diego Pazos, that the event they have dubbed, ‘The Beast,’ can only get bigger, brighter and better. In what is clearly a significant validation of Oman Sail’s community links policy, and a wonderful example of what is possible with community interaction, OmanbyUTMB is also a glowing testament to the willingness of ordinary Omanis to be involved both in the promotion of the Sultanate, and to share of themselves with overseas visitors, displaying the renowned Omani hospitality.
Story by RAY PETERSEN
Photos by LENA PETERSEN