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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Abu Dhabi Marathon can be a catalyst to promote a healthy lifestyle, says Paul Tergat

The Kenyan former world-record holder says eradicating diseases such as obesity and diabetes, 'can only be promoted through sports'

 Paul Tergat says he hopes the Abu Dhabi marathon will become an 'iconic event in the years to come'. The inaugural race is on December 7, 2018. Victor Besa / The National
 Paul Tergat says he hopes the Abu Dhabi marathon will become an 'iconic event in the years to come'. The inaugural race is on December 7, 2018. Victor Besa / The National

Former world-record holder Paul Tergat says the Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon can be a catalyst to promote sports for a healthy lifestyle in the UAE.

The Kenyan legend said the inaugural race should be seen as much as a drive to tackle health problems such as diabetes - the UAE has one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the world, with almost one in five affected - as much as a celebration of adding another world-class sporting event to the capital's growing portfolio.

Tergat, who held the marathon world record from 2003 to 2007 after winning the Belin Marathon in a time of 2 hours, 4 minutes and 55 seconds, was in Abu Dhabi for the launch of the marathon route. Tergat, 49, is a member of the technical committee that designed the route for the December 7 race.

“We talk about eradicating obesity and diabetes, and this can only be promoted through sports,” he told The National on the sidelines of the unveiling ceremony at Adnoc headquarters.

“All we need is to create playgrounds for everyone to play the sports of their choices. We need to make people love sports for health reasons. We have to promote sports as a lifestyle.

“We want to convey the benefits of sports even a doctor cannot heal. When you suffer from poor health the only thing a medical doctor can prescribe are exercises other than the medicines.”

As well as the full-distance marathon, there will be three other races held on the day over 10-kilometres, 5km and 2.5km.

“Abu Dhabi is a beautiful city with beautiful people and well established as a global venue for sports," Tergat said. "I wish the Abu Dhabi Marathon to become an iconic event in the years to come.”

More than 30 elite runners have been confirmed so far, including Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia and Kenyan Abraham Kiptum.

With a total prize fund of US$379,000 (Dh1.3 million), Tergat said financial reward should not be the main driver for young people to take up sports.

“We want to encourage everyone to take up sport and if they can make monetary gains it’s up to them. Let them make money," said Tergat, a 10,000m silver medalist at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic gains.

“If you are a full-time sportsman, it should have economic benefits. We urge the governments to encourage the youth to do sports ... When young people are in sports we take them out of many negative things from their life.

“We need to engage young people in sports. We can have people with more discipline, workers who can work well. That’s what I want to see in sports.”

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While Tergat extolled the virtues of youth taking up sports, at the other end of the spectrum, he urged national federations to look to retired athletes to promote the virtues of a healthy lifestyle and train young athletes.

“The authorities need to utilise their experience by taking them onboard as coaches and community workers in sports, because these guys have spent all their life in sport, and sacrificing their academics,” said Tergat, president of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya.

“These guys have something others may not have. Not paper qualifications but experience.”

“I love sports and my passion for it hasn’t diminished even a bit from the time I was an athlete and now as an administrator,” he added.