Ray Petersen –
This weekend from the Al Mouj Marina to the Markaz Al Bahja intersection, and the Al Mouj Golf Club to Wadi Al Bhaiyas in Seeb, thousands of runners and spectators will embrace the Sultanates biggest ever sporting event.
Hundreds of volunteers, hundreds of police and security, and the well-oiled Oman Sail sporting events management team will once again swing into action as the 2019 Al Mouj Marathon takes centre stage in the capital city.
Maitha al Mahrouqiyah, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Chairwoman of Oman Sail, said, in a message to competitors in this weekend’s Al Mouj Marathon, “This true festival of running has helped to unite our communities, capturing the enthusiasm of spectators who will crowd the streets of Muscat, and it has inspired local runners to take up the challenge and dedicate themselves to training and a new purpose. The event has also served an important role in visibly highlighting the very real benefits of an active lifestyle across the country, whilst raising the profile of Oman around the world.”
During the last three days leading up to the 2019 Al Mouj Marathon, almost 8,000 competitors, across the six events on Marathon weekend, will be collecting their ‘runner packs,’ which will identify each with a bib, and a technical t-shirt. The bibs will be of different colours to identify the different events, with the flagship competitors in blue. Each competitor has a unique number, and an associated timing chip, which allows race organisers to keep track of competitors throughout the event, and to produce accurate results.
Issa al Saqri Head of Communications at Oman Sail commenting on the quality field for this year’s event, in the Elite Marathon group, said “The pool of elites we have this year is the best that the country has ever had in the history of running races, with elite athletes in the men’s and women’s competitors from Africa and Europe prominent.” Last year’s winner Moses Too returns to defend his title, but will have his hands full with five runners with faster personal bests in this year’s field. Mengistu Asnakech of Ethiopia will be a firm favourite for the women’s event.
In a sentimental nod to the origins of the event, the organisers of the event in 2012, the Muscat Road Runners, will provide race pacing, to help this year’s 8,000 competitors, with the start list numbers for each event approximately: The Marathon 42km = 325; the Half Marathon 21km = 750, the Marathon Relay 42km = 500, the 10km Run = 1500, the 5km Charity Fun Run = 2100, and finally the 1km, 2km, and 3km Kids Runs = 2800. Competition will be intense among all sections, and especially among the elites, as podium places can enhance their international profiles, while there is also the incentive of prize money, medals and certificates, with Oman’s most active school being recognised and rewarded.
David Graham CEO of Oman Sail, introducing the 8th renewal of the event, commented, “we once again demonstrate the huge potential of Oman as the country continues on its steady course to become a global sports and tourism destination. Building on the vision and solid foundations established by Muscat Road Runners, with the continued support of our title sponsor Al Mouj Muscat and our many vital partners, this has been another great example of a combined national effort that has further developed a high-profile and prestigious international event.”
Graham, stressing the importance of the organiser’s commitment to environmental responsibility, and in support of charity partners the Oman Environmental Society (ESO), said: “This year we have also launched the marathon’s environmental pledge, working closely with the ESO, with the aim of further developing our commitment over forthcoming editions. To reduce the ecological impact of the 2019 marathon, we start with replacing single-use plastic bottles with paper cups at each refreshment post.”
The Dar Al Atta’a Association, Oman Cancer Association, Oman Downs Syndrome Association, the Oman Diabetes Association, and the Al Noor Association for the Blind are other event charity partners, supported by the event. An official medical team, from Burjeel Hospital, will provide at nine different locations along the route, and in the race village, to ensure the wellbeing of competitors, while rehydration will be regularly available at feed and water stations along the route, where water, drinks, gels, fruits, dates, and salt replacements will be available.
The Race Village at Al Mouj is where the event takes on a somewhat less demanding aspect with entertainment galore. Racegoers can follow the runners on the big screen, do Zumba, dance and be entertained by stilt-walkers, live music, DJs, Marching bands, face-painting, freestyle football and much more, making it an event for the whole family.
Speaking to the local media this week, Salma al Hashmi, Chief Marketing Officer of Oman Sail, identified two of the event’s key objectives saying, “The event has also inspired many people throughout Oman to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and it is playing an important part in developing new areas of the national economy.” The Al Mouj Marathon just keeps on growing, and who would have ever thought it would flourish to this extent? Not many I guess, but those pioneers from the first event in 2012 must be very satisfied that their ‘baby,’ is fast becoming the ‘big kid on the block!’