Amateur athletes are taking to the running track in droves, bringing substantial gains for sporting goods retailers.
The move is also sparking competition over sponsorship deals for races such as today's Dubai Marathon.
The size of the market for sporting goods increased by 54.4 per cent between 2006 and last year to $133.6m (Dh490.71m), according to data from Euromonitor International. The researcher predicts an "upsurge in exercise in the country" in the year ahead, driven by Government moves to combat obesity and diabetes among UAE nationals.
Efforts by the Dubai Sports Council to provide assistance to race organisers were contributing to a greater number of events in the Emirates, said Terry Hislop, the chairman of Dubai Creek Striders, a running organisation.
"When we first came here eight years ago, there were maybe a half-dozen races in the whole of the season," he said.
"Now, every weekend the calendar's full. People are starting to get interested because it's a cheap way to train and meet more friends."
The increased numbers of events has left more advertising opportunities for sporting goods retailers such as Adidas and Nike, but banks including Standard Chartered and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank have also sponsored running events in the Emirates this year.
Standard Chartered's sponsorship of the Dubai Marathon provides a number of benefits to the bank, said Jonathan Morris, the lender's chief executive in the UAE.
"All sponsorships and donations help to drive our business, community and employee engagement," he said, although he declined to state how much the bank paid for sponsorship of the event. "Aside from naming rights and route branding, the sponsorship gives us the opportunity to reach out to the community." The event also allows the bank to advertise to a huge number of people from all walks of life, Mr Morris added.
"The growing popularity of these marathons may be explained by the fact that they appeal to all types of runners, from weekend plodders to seasoned professionals," he said. "Some people run in costume, some for charity, others to push their physical and mental limits."
Authorities expect more than 15,000 runners to take to the streets of Dubai today, hoping for 1,000 more participants than last year.