ABU DHABI // There was a festival feel to the fourth annual Prevent Diabetes Walk yesterday, as an estimated 15,000 participants descended on the Yas Marina Circuit.
Stilt walkers carefully made their way through the thousands of people who came to the event, stopping to take pictures with excited groups of young people. Long lines formed in front of the climbing wall. Others sat down to learn how to play goblet-shaped African drums, taught by enthusiastic instructors with dreadlocks. At Dh10 a ticket, entire families came out to enjoy the atmosphere and raise awareness about diabetes.
Mohammed Ahmed donned a pair of boxing gloves and enthusiastically hammered away at an instructor's padded hands. After a few minutes, the instructor took a break and asked the 13-year-old whether boxing was hard. "Yes," he said breathlessly, as he continued to throw combinations of lefts and rights on command for several more minutes.
Afterwards, Mohammed, who also practises karate, kobudo (an Okinawan martial art using weapons), football, basketball, swimming and tennis, denied finding the boxing difficult. "I just like throwing punches," he said. "It's a very good workout."
Mohammed was at the walk because, even at a young age, he is obsessed with living a healthy life. That is what brought him out to walk around the Yas Marina Circuit's 5km track. "It's fun and I want to tell people to do it because it's healthy," he said.
Many people came to show support for diabetic family members. Anna Paquibit, whose mother has diabetes, was one of them. "I just wanted to help out," said the 25-year-old.
Both of Jayaved Dhakshinamoorthy's parents are diabetic. "It is good to be part of this," said the 43-year-old, who had come out to raise awareness about the condition.
Meanwhile, Mohammed al Minhali, 30, brought his diabetic father, Hamed al Minhali, 55, to the walk. "My father has diabetes, but he is here to do the walk. I am here because I wanted to support efforts to raise awareness about diabetes," said the younger Mr al Minhali. He said the disease had been a wake up call for his father. "He is living healthily now, and has lost a lot of weight," he said.
Although bound to his wheelchair, Bani al Najar, 45, was looking forward to circling the track. Mr al Najar is not a diabetic, but he wanted people to appreciate their health. "I came to support the message about healthy living. Don't eat fast food, don't stop walking," he said.
Carol Sansour works for the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre in Abu Dhabi, which organises the annual walk. "The philosophy of the walk is to spread the message that even an exercise as simple as walking can help prevent diabetes," she explained.
Those who have a history of diabetes in the family, or lead sedentary lives, are at an increased risk of developing the disease. According to the Imperial College, they can reduce their risk of contracting diabetes by up to 58 per cent by walking every day.
For Geoffrey Bottomley, 49, and his wife, the best part of the event was the feeling of community. This was the second year they had participated. "We came last year and saw the unity of everybody. It gets everyone together from all walks of life."
"It also promotes healthy eating, which I definitely need," he said while patting his stomach.