Muscat, December 1st 2018: The first ever OMAN by UTMB® event has drawn to a close as the tired but elated final runners crossed the Al Hamra finish line at the end of their 137km adventure through the mountains of Oman.
From the moment the joint winners Jason Schlarb and Diego ‘Zpeedy’ Pazos finished arm-in-arm in a time of 20 hours, 45 minutes and 37 seconds, a steady stream of runners have followed, each celebrating the completion of an epic challenge while being applauded by Omani spectators and well-wishers.
Among them was the women’s race winner, British runner Anna-Marie Watson, who completed the course in 26:20:27, 49 minutes ahead of Hungarian athlete Ildiko Wermescher, with the well-known US ultra-trail runner Meredith Edwards coming home third 40 minutes later.
Watson, a former British Army captain, was delighted to have been a part of the inaugural OMAN by UTMB®. “It’s been an amazing day – I can’t quite believe it to be honest, and to come in ninth overall as well was just the icing on the cake.
“UTMB® holds a really special place in my heart so when I heard there was going to be one in Oman I just had to be part of it.”
And she added: “I have spent several holidays here, diving, seeing the turtles, and chilling out in Muscat. There is so much to explore in Oman. It’s a true gem in the Middle East.”
OMAN by UTMB® attracted athletes from 57 countries around the world, as well as a 47-strong local contingent of Omani runners who were led home by Hamdan Al Khatri, who finished 19th in a time of 29:04:10.
He was joined by the other Omani finishers Mohammed Al Maharbi, Khusaif Al Zakwani, Ahmed Al Hinai, Omar Hassan and Hamed Al Harthi. Also distinguishing herself was Nadhira Al Harthy, who completed an impressive 100km of the tough and demanding course.
The last runner to complete the course was from Mumbai in India with a time of 43:58:32, one of four runners who sprinted to the finish to beat the cut-off.
The families and friends of many of the runners travelled to Oman to support their loved ones and greet them at the conclusion of their races.
The finish line was finally closed at 15:30 local time, 44 hours after the international field of 329 ultra-trail athletes set off through the streets of Birkat Al Mouz on a course described as “tough but wonderful” by UTMB® Mont-Blanc Race Director Michel Poletti before the start.
After the final runners crossed the line he added: “What a technical race! An event with a real mountain, absolutely in the UTMB® DNA. The idea was to offer runners an unforgettable experience, within a magic landscape.”
The route delivered every inch of the natural beauty and physical challenge promised. The runners took on the heights of Jebel Al Akhdar – the Green Mountain – ran through ancient, deserted villages such as Wadi Bani Habib, navigated stunning ridges and plateau edges at Sharaf Al Alamayn, before finally descending into the spectacular mountain village of Misfat Al Abriyyin and on to the finish.
“Every single one of the runners deserves our respect and our congratulations,” said Salma Al Hashmi, Chief Marketing Officer at event organiser, Oman Sail.
“OMAN by UTMB® has been a great success in providing all the athletes with a tough, memorable challenge in a magnificent environment. They now have the opportunity to enjoy their achievement, relax and take advantage of Oman’s legendary hospitality and welcoming culture.”
The first running of OMAN by UTMB® received the vital support of local communities along the route, who worked alongside teams from Oman Sail to improve and enhance sections of the course and help create a long-term legacy which will benefit the region.
The ground-breaking project also benefitted from the close co-operation of the Royal Oman Police, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Sport Affairs, the Ministry of Information, the Royal Army of Oman, the Royal Oman Airforce, the Royal Oman Police, Alila Jebel Al Akhdar, and Garmin, who worked hand-in-hand with event organiser Oman Sail to ensure success and support the long-term objective of promoting Oman as a trail-running and sports tourism destination.
Details of next year’s OMAN by UTMB® will be announced in the coming days.