PETER VARENKAMP –
On a very early morning on Friday, the beach area of Shangri-la Barr al Jissah is filled with eager participants and their supporters. You can see the tension on some of the people’s faces.
While others were busy chatting and making small talks, the rest were seriously silent, probably giving themselves a peep talk.
It was a great morning — the sun and its rays illuminating the powdery white sand of the beach.
That Oman is a great country to do sports was once again proven this weekend at the Arch swim. Officially called Muscat Arch Swimming Race, it’s a two and half kilometre sea swim and for this year, it closed at 100 participants — with mostly sporty and fun loving expats who all have the resolve that this event is something they can conquer.
I rose from bed at 5.30 in the morning, arrived at the event’s area worried that the sea would be choppy but thankfully, it was smooth as a mirror. The event was scheduled to begin at 7.30 in the morning.
The registration area was manned by professionals — Suleiman al Alalawi, Juergen Dörr and the family Salt — knew how to manage an event like this. A short briefing ensued. The participants were given a few reminders and then the race began.
Swimmers taking part on the race were required to be physically fit and medically abled to complete part or the entirety of the course.
The start was smooth and although there were almost a hundred of us, I could get into my strokes very easy without being hindered by other swimmers.
The organising committee took care of kayaks and boats which served as support for swimmers. They were strategically placed in different locations to lend a hand to those who need it.
As I’ve discovered, for races like this, it is important to swim in straight lines. This allows you to save your energy by covering the shortest distance possible. This is what many of the swimmers have in mind but something they were not able to do.
Reaching the arch, the current became stronger as the water flows through a narrow passage. It’s noticeable that this part of the race poses a certain challenge.
There are so much things to discover in the waters of Oman. After reaching the bouy after the arch, I would come no notice floating thin orange strips which I mistaken for old nylon ropes. I’ve seen them a few metres before but they’ve seem to have grown in numbers.
Being close to a few of them, I started to feel some sting. It didn’t take long for me to realise that these floating strips were in fact a form of jellyfish. I have never seen them before.
Although their colour was beautiful, they were an added hurdle to the race making it even more spectacular. Most of the participants shared the heroic feeling having passed to manage this particular hurdle of the race.
During the closing ceremony, the fastest male swimmer Mark Fishwick (38:46 min) and the fastest female swimmer Vivianne Schroeter (45:55 min) were honoured.
Finishing this race gave me a good and satisfying feeling, which I would not have had if I had stayed in my bed.