x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Race raises tens of thousands to help rugby player

The 27-kilometre race in Al Ain's was in support of Jonathan Beeton, a South African amateur rugby player critically injured last month while on a boating trip with friends.

About 60 people ran up and down Jebel Hafeet yesterday to raise money for Jon Beeton, an amateur rugby player who is in a coma after a boating accident in Dubai.
About 60 people ran up and down Jebel Hafeet yesterday to raise money for Jon Beeton, an amateur rugby player who is in a coma after a boating accident in Dubai.

ABU DHABI // "Boy, it was steep," Binod Shankar said after a charity run took him and 60 others up and down Jebel Hafeet.

Yesterday's 27-kilometre race on Al Ain's picturesque hill was in support of Jonathan Beeton, a South African amateur rugby player critically injured last month while on a boating trip with friends.

The race was organised by Marcus Smith, a former rugby player, and Mike Jackson, a marathon runner. The pair were planning to attempt the route on their own, but on hearing of Mr Beeton's accident they invited others to join in.

Mr Smith, 32, and Mr Beeton had played rugby together for the Dubai Exiles team.

"It has been awful for so many people," Mr Smith said of the incident which has left his former teammate clinically brain-dead and on life support in Rashid Hospital. "Everyone holds as much hope as possible, but it is tough."

While on a boating trip, the 27-year-old engineer was knocked off balance and fell, hitting his head and neck on a platform at the back of the boat. His family is considering moving him to South Africa for more tests.

The ordeal has generated a wave of support from the community, with a fund-raiser at The Sevens Stadium this month generating nearly Dh300,000. Yesterday's event brought in Dh30,000 to Dh40,000, said Mr Smith, who will know the exact amount collected in cash and through pledges by the end of next week.

The money will help Mr Beeton's family pay for his care.

"People were very generous with donations," Mr Smith said. "We had great support crew and some people just came down to help and give water to the runners. It shows that people like to do these things, especially for a good cause."

At 1,240 metres, Jebel Hafeet is not the UAE's highest mountain. Just as well, said Mr Shankar, who although a trained marathon runner had to alternate running with some walking.

"It was a continuous upwards climb," observed the 42-year-old entrepreneur, who is a member of the Dubai Creek Striders, a running group. The 5am start did not help.

Corey Oliver, founder and managing director of Original Fitness, a training company, said the race was as much mental as physical.

"Once I was up it felt like this was my Everest but then I had to go back down again," the 33-year-old Australian said. "It was one of the hardest things I have done. The legs were cramping and back was getting stiff but you just had to keep motoring on."

Although the race was more about participation, it did have a winner. Steven Coutard, 36, from France.

"My first thought was for Jon and his family," said the former rugby player, who now competes in triathlons. "It felt good to win, obviously, but people like Marcus and the rest of the organisers deserve to be the centre of attention.".

Jon's wife, Tammy, 23, attended yesterday's run. She distributed water to runners and ran the last part of the race.

"It was very humbling," she said of the support the family has received. "I'd just really like to say thank you."

vtodorova@thenational.ae