DUBAI // Hundreds of runners were left sitting in traffic while others faced a delayed start on Friday night for the We Run Dubai - Light Up DXB race on The Palm Jumeirah.
They complained that the car park was full well before the 7pm race began, leaving them unable to compete.
Premier Timing, the official timing website of the race, showed 4,650 people had registered for it, while sponsor Nike said there were 2,500 parking spaces available.
Premier's website reported that 3,634 runners started the race and 1,016 failed to turn up.
"It left a really bad taste in my mouth," said Hakan Unsal, 30.
He said he trained for weeks before his first 10-kilometre race and, although nervous, he was excited to test his limits.
Mr Unsal, from Turkey, said he and his fiancee left Dubai Marina at 5.30pm, despite a campaign by organisers urging participants to arrive by 5pm to avoid delays.
Runners were also urged to take public transport.
"Nike is aware that many runners were unable to be at the starting line for We Run Dubai due to traffic issues leading into The Palm venue," the global sports brand said.
It said the company was aware of challenges faced by previous events at the location.
"Nike chose The Palm as the location for the first We Run Dubai due to its iconic location and beautiful night view of the Dubai skyline," the company said.
Mr Unsal said it took 90 minutes to reach the car park, which was full. Organisers said they delayed the race by 20 minutes to accommodate those stuck in traffic.
Mohannad Al Tabbal, 30, arrived by taxi at 5pm.
The Syrian architect said no one knew when the race would start, causing confusion among runners who were trying to warm up.
When the race started, 4km of the route was unlit, Mr Al Tabbal said.
"We had to be really careful on that section as it was so dark," he said. "People started laughing when they reached the dark part because it was so ridiculous.
"The only available light leaked on to the road from the building sites. I saw people tripping in the dark."
Nike acknowledged the problem.
"On the night there was a technical difficulty on one section of the race, which resulted in the lighting going out," it said. "As soon as we were made aware of this, we worked to resolve it and lighting was restored."
There was also a glitch at the finishing lines, with runners clogging the area while waiting to get their timing chips cut off their shoes.
Mr Unsal said he was angry when he found out he could not race.
Nike said: "Late runners could not be permitted to run because the course had two U-turns and the faster runners would have started coming in towards the finish line, facing the late starters.
"This could have resulted in jeopardising the late-comers' safety."
Mr Unsal said he wanted a refund of the Dh165 registration fee and an apology from Nike.
"Nike is still in the process of working through the amount of runners that were unable to make the start due to traffic issues," the company said. "As we work through this process we will also be discussing further communication back to these runners."
Mr Al Tabbal said: "They are blaming us because we didn't show up at 5pm. I hope they improve. It wasn't a charity event and I can't even say the money went to a good cause."