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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Dubai is the second-to-last destination in the World Marathon Challenge, a competition in which participants must run seven marathons on seven continents within seven days.
Athlete Becca Pizzi trains in Boston, USA, for the World Marathon Challenge. The 15 participants will take part in the Dubai Marathon next month as part of the challenge. AP Photo
Athlete Becca Pizzi trains in Boston, USA, for the World Marathon Challenge. The 15 participants will take part in the Dubai Marathon next month as part of the challenge. AP Photo

DUBAI // A unique group of athletes will come to Dubai next month to run a marathon as part of a gruelling around-the-world race.

The emirate is the second-to-last stop in the World Marathon Challenge, a competition where participants must run seven marathons on seven continents within seven days.

The race will begin on January 23 in Antarctica and will make consecutive stops in Chile, Miami, Madrid, Marrakech and Dubai before the finale in Sydney on January 29.

“The UAE and Dubai is a perfect location for a number of reasons,” said race director Richard Donovan. “It is part of the continent of Asia, it is a hub in terms of travel logistics, making it easy to find suitable flights to make the World Marathon Challenge work. It is almost equidistant between Africa and Australia, the final continent (and) the scenery and weather is quite beautiful.”

Mr Donovan, who launched the race last year, said the runners would follow a simple course along Dubai’s roads and footpaths.

“Time is a very precious resource in this challenge,” he said. “There is no point in adding to the challenge by travelling to a desert or making the course more difficult.”

Becca Pizzi is among the 15 racers who will attempt to run 295 kilometres in seven days – including 59 hours in a chartered plane flying about 38,000km.

The 35-year-old mother and day-care worker is vying to be the first American woman to complete the challenge.

“I feel like I was born to run this race,” said Ms Pizzi, who started running with her father when she was six.

She has been training almost every day for the past year, combining early morning runs with evening strength training.

“I train 30 hours a week,” said Ms Pizzi, who runs 120km to 160km a week.

“I’m trying to run on tired legs, so when I get to the third and the fourth and the fifth marathons I know how to run tired. But there’s a fine line. Doing that, you really have to take care of your body.”

Ms Pizzi said she ensured her fitness schedule does not interfere with her work – in addition to owning a day care centre, she manages an ice-cream shop – or cut into the time she can spend with her eight-year-old daughter, Taylor.

“I don’t want to take away from my work. I don’t want it to take away from my daughter, so I’m working out before she goes to bed or after she goes to bed,” said Ms Pizzi, who lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

She has completed 45 marathons in 27 American states in her bid to join the 50 States Marathon Club.

To qualify for the World Marathon Challenge, participants must be able to run the standard 42.2km marathon distance in all seven continents within seven days, according to the rules. The race is limited to 15 participants on a first-come, first-served basis.

“What I get out of it is getting to inspire so many people. When somebody calls me and says that they started running again or they are signing up for their first marathon or their half marathon, I feel like I’ve done my job,” said Ms Pizzi.

“I’m running to inspire and to tell the world that anything that you put your mind to, it’s possible.”

For more information, visit www.worldmarathonchallenge.com.

rpennington@thenational.ae