Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 August 2020

One Dubai resident's 17-hour, 110km run from Hatta to Dubai in the height of summer: 'I could do another right now'

Souleymane Ghani is well known for his unfathomable running ability

Souleymane Ghani takes on the hills near Hatta on Sunday afternoon, a few hours into his run.
Souleymane Ghani takes on the hills near Hatta on Sunday afternoon, a few hours into his run.

After running through the night for almost 17 hours straight, clocking up a distance of more than 110 kilometres in peak summer, Souleymane Ghani did not intend to spend the rest of the day in a heap on the couch, or sleeping, as he quite rightly deserved to do.

Instead, he ate an acai bowl, had a shower and went into the Puma store at Mall of the Emirates, where he works as a sales associate, ready to clock up a full day's work.

Luckily, his boss wasn't having any of it.

"I went into work ...and they said you have to go home," Ghani tells The National, hours after completing the journey from Hatta to Dubai on foot, setting off at 5pm on Sunday and arriving in Dubai, at the Last Exit near Al Khawaneej, at about 9.30am on Monday.

Ghani, who is from Togo, West Africa, is well known for his unfathomable knack for running.

Ghani at the start line, Hatta Fort Hotel, on Sunday afternoon.
Ghani at the start line, Hatta Fort Hotel, on Sunday afternoon

Each day, he goes outside and starts his morning with a 20km run – and then finishes his day the same way at Kite Beach, clocking up a minimum of 40km every day.

But the Hatta to Dubai run was a monumental effort, even for him.

Travelling to Hatta on Sunday afternoon with a support crew and fellow runner Hamad Salem, who trailed him throughout the night with supplies, Ghani set off minutes before 5pm, as the mercury hovered around 37 degrees Celsius.

In a video diary posted to his Instagram, Salem regularly caught up with Ghani to see how he was doing. At 6.10pm, at his first rest stop, Ghani was in good spirits, laughing that his shoes were "deceiving him" and he was running too fast.

"I meant to do that part in 90 minutes, but I did it in one hour and nine minutes," he says, with a laugh, admitting he should probably slow down.

By 9pm, he was 40km into the run and had stopped on the side of the road with his prayer mat to perform the isha prayer, before carrying on.

At about 11pm, he was more than halfway, having clocked up almost 60km, and was still smiling. He then ran throughout the night, observing the fajr prayer a little after 4am, and was joined by members of the local Adidas runners community near the finish line, soon after 6am, as temperatures hit 34°C.

He was accompanied by a handful of fellow runners for the final 20km push.

Ghani at the finish line near Last Exit with his support crew.
Ghani at the finish line near Last Exit with his support crew

At 9.30am, he was finished, with an acai bowl as a reward and a huge smile on his face. However, he's not 100 per cent sure of his final distance, as his watch died after the 110km mark.

"I feel OK," he tells The National. "I had a bit of cramp at the end.

"But I'm good. I could do another one right now."

Now, after returning from work, he is at home, washing his clothes and waiting for the dhuhr prayer, after which he will have a quick nap and spend the rest of the day relaxing.

He will add this achievement to a string of running accolades, which are all the more impressive when you consider he only started taking running seriously in 2016. He has since participated in marathons and races around the globe, including in South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Georgia, Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai. In the Middle East, he has taken part in the notoriously difficult Hajar 100 and Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, and has completed runs from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, and from Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah.

Naturally, this hasn't quite dulled Ghani's desire to take on even more extreme runs. He says he still has "lots of goals" and is eventually working himself up to doing the Canadian Death Race – a 125km run through the Canadian Rockies on a route that passes over three mountain summits, includes more than 5,100 metres of elevation change and a river crossing through a canyon.

Check out this video of Ghani talking about how running is his 'meditation':

Updated: July 20, 2020 06:25 PM

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