“The gun went off and hundreds of kids roared down the road towards me. I could’ve been trampled,” laughed Eoin Keith, the winner of the Oman by UTMB 170 km event, as he talked about the positive vibes gained by all the international athletic s family, the UTMB family, OmanSail, media and onlookers, as they struggled to put into words their emotion at seeing hundreds of kids enjoying running on Saturday morning at Al Hamra.
The 2019 Oman by UTMB festival concluded with a family day featuring 10 km and 5 km events for budding athletes, and those who wanted to challenge themselves, but who were not yet ready for the ‘ultra’ events. Special 2 km events for the kids, the stars of tomorrow were programmed, and proved to be a stunning spectacle, and an incredibly rewarding experience for all concerned.
OmanSail CEO David Graham in his prize giving address, paid specific tribute to all of the children and the youth of Oman competing, and emphasised yet again that one of his organisation’s key objectives across the event, lies in “promoting healthy lifestyles, good health, family, and community wide activity.” He must have been rewarded in trumps with the spectacle that unfolded before him on Saturday as especially the Birkat Al Mouz School, winners of the prize for the most active participants, charged the stage, offered their victory chant, and won the crowd with their joy and spontaneity. Catherine and Michel Polleti, founders of UTMB, joined the entire crowd in their applause and delight.
It would be a very brave person indeed, based on the potential demonstrated by the Omani athletes in the main events, and the enthusiasm shown by the next generation, who could say that Oman does not have significant potential on the global athletic scene.
As 2019 champion Eion Keith remarked, “The Omanis obviously share many of the characteristics of their North African cousins, and have the potential, as a nation, to become a real force in long and ultra-distance events.”