Muscat, November 30th 2018: Hands raised in mutual celebration, two of the world’s leading ultra-trail runners today crossed the finish line of the first ever OMAN by UTMB® event together as joint winners while hundreds of fellow competitors run on into their second night out on the trail.
American runner Jason Schlarb was arm-in-arm with the extrovert Swiss athlete Diego ‘Zpeedy’ Pazos as they completed the challenging mountain course at Al Hamra early this afternoon.
Both high-profile members of the international ultra-trail community, the winning duo took 20 hours, 45 minutes and 37 seconds to cover the 137km route through the Akhdar mountain range.
Schlarb, from Durango in Colorado, was the top US finisher in the 2014 UTMB® Mont Blanc classic, while Lausanne-based Pazos is renowned for his world-class performances as well as his bow tie.
Soon after the finish an elated Schlarb said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to win the first ever OMAN by UTMB® and to share it with someone like Diego was a dream come true. We didn’t discuss it until the last 20k when we worked together and pushed each other – we both ran faster and harder than we would ever have done on our own.”
And he added: “The course was unbelievably challenging – technical and exciting all at once. The people were hugely inviting and wonderful, shaking my hand, it was great.”
His emotions were seconded by Pazos: “It is a unique emotion and to share it with Jason is very nice as well. I am more than happy as I did not expect that!
“The course was more than challenging. It’s really incredible – the most challenging race I have ever done that’s for sure.”
Third place overall went to Russian ultra-trail regular Aleksei Tolstenko, 42 minutes behind the leading duo, with Lithuanian star Gediminas Grinius – the 2016 Ultra Trail World Tour champion – in fourth ahead of Uganda-based British runner Alfred Pearce-Higgins.
With the leading runners finishing, many of the rest of the field will be spurred on by the desire to avoid another night in the mountains and at the time of writing, the leading female runners were just a few hours from the finish line.
As promised, OMAN by UTMB® delivered a course that was as beautiful as it was challenging, with stages that were demanding and technical as well as awe-inspiring.
Predictably, a highlight of the event was a tricky traverse of a steep and exposed rock face on the way up to the Hotel Alila Jebel Akhdar, one of the event partners. Uniquely for a UTMB® event, cables were provided to assist the runners on this section.
And one of the final sections of the race, just before the stunning Misfat Al Abriyyin, saw the runners face a daunting 1,100m ascent which the leaders managed to negotiate in an impressive hour and a half.
The leading runners will enjoy the world-renowned Omani hospitality tonight and a well-earned good night’s sleep while their fellow competitors continue running for a second night out on the OMAN by UTMB® trail.
It is worth mentioning that 70 Omani athletes have joined the race, including Sami Al Saidi , Jamal Al Hatmi and Saleh Al Saidi, as well as some Omani women including Nadhira Al Harthi and Hamida Al Jabri.
The event is supported by the Implementation Support and Follow-up Unit, the Ministry of Tourism, Alila Jabal Akdhar, Garmin, Bahwan Projects & Telecoms, and Oman Sail.