MUSCAT: Morocco’s Mohammed El Morabity won the top honours of the eighth edition of annual Oman Desert Marathon (ODM) in Bidiyah on Tuesday.
Mohammed, brother of six-time champion, Rachid El Morabity claimed the top spot in the men’s category with an overall time of 14 hours 13 minutes and 15 seconds.
Switzerland’s Corina Sommer took home the women’s prize with an overall time of 19 hours 39 minutes and 28 seconds.
“The dunes were beautiful, however the night race was a bit scary. I was on my own for so long that it made me pick up my speed. This was both my first desert run and my first night run as well,” Sommer said.
A ceremony was held on Wednesday at the Jawharat Bidiyah Resort under the auspices of Shaikh Ali bin Ahmed al Shamsi, Governor of North Al Sharqiyah, to honour the runners as well as those who worked behind the scenes during the course of the race.
Morocco's TGCC team, which consisted of international champions Mohammed and Rachid El Morabity, emerged team champions.
SALEH THIRD OVERALL
Saleh al Saidi of Army A team was third overall and the first Omani with a finishing time of 15:31:30. His teammates Sami al Saadi (16:17:10) and Hamdan al Khatri (16:24:30) claimed the fourth and fifth positions respectively.
Oman Army B team’s Moosa al Balushi (17:58:29) and Gaith Saif were sixth and seventh in the race. Evgenii Glyva of Ukraine (19:50:18) and Khalid al Jabri of Oman (21:55:41) finished in the next two positions.
In the women’s section, Moroccans Aziza El Amrany (19:46:10) and Aziza Raji (20:28:07) claimed the second and third spots. Italy’s Billi Francesca (31:13:17) and Great Britain’s Julie Johnstone (31:39:38) finished fourth and fifth.
The 165 km desert run started on January 21 from Al Wasil Fort with 42 runners, and it ended in Jawharat al Bidiyah Resort on January 24 with 37 runners, after five had quit during the race.
This year’s race also included a children’s 2 km run, a 5 km run, and 10 km, which were run on day one.
The 165 km run is usually divided into six stages, run over the span of one week. This year it was divided into four stages: 47 km distance on day one, 55 km on day two, 42 km night run on day three and 21 km on the fourth and final day.
The race was sponsored by a host of entities including the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, Oman Athletic Association, Tanuf, Omantel, Oman LNG, Jawharat Bidiyah Resort, OTSO, A’saffa, Pocari Sweat, Mwasalat, Camelback, Lulu Hypermarket, Oman Air, Tactical Trading, and Al Forn Cafe.
In total, 18 Omani runners and 24 international runners from Italy, Germany, Poland, the UK, Morocco, France, Spain, Belgium, Ukraine and Switzerland took part in ODM 2023.
Alfonso Sciarratta, a 67-year-old surgeon from Italy, also took part in this year’s race and he finished the 165 km run in 42:17:46.
DESERT RUN CHAMPIONS
Some of the runners shared their experience of running at the Bidiyah golden sands.
Cecile Bertin, from France, said: “I came to run ODM 5 years ago and there were barely any Omani runners. Those who were there were not well prepared for this kind of race. This time, I was impressed with how the participation has grown and also with the quality of their runners. I see Oman as the champions of desert running!
David Sanchez from Spain said: “Oman Desert Marathon was a new way of running for me. It is very different from the mountain running that I have been doing for years. It was a fantastic change for me to run in a new trail environment.”
Albert Jorquera Mestres of Spain said: “This was my first stage race and my first desert race. This gave an opportunity to learn about a culture, experience new sensations and the desert, rather than just visiting as a tourist. I have suffered a lot but I had a great time.”