x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge kicks off today

About 200 contestants are to gather at the Corniche for the start of a gruelling six-day race that will traverse the vast dunes of the Empty quarter, Al Ain and the rocky crags of Jebel Hafeet.

ABU DHABI // As the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge kicks off today, 200 contestants will gather at the Corniche for the start of a gruelling six-day race that will traverse the vast sand dunes of the Empty Quarter, Al Ain and the rocky crags of Jebel Hafeet.

The race boasts new features, which were added to the 426-kilometre race, officials say, to level the playing field. The course has been reversed, starting with a triathlon on the Corniche in Abu Dhabi, progressing to a two-day, 121km trek across the Rub' al Khali desert, and ending with a 129km kayak journey that will finish on the shores of the Abu Dhabi Corniche.

The changes are meant to "bring all the participants close to the community and on the sands at the beginning and end of the race," said Faisal al Sheikh, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority's (ADTA) event manager for the race.

ADTA launched the race in 2007, and it has become the richest such event in the world. This year, 50 teams from 18 countries will be competing for part of the US$226,500 (Dh832,000) purse. The top team will net $40,000 (Dh145,000).

With 30 new teams, six of them from the UAE, the adventure challenge reflects the dual aims of the organisersm to showcase the natural beauty of the Emirates and to inspire its inhabitants.

"The Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge reflects part of Abu Dhabi's society and lifestyle. With the diversity of the teams, you feel the energy and discipline of those people that take part," said Mr al Sheikh.

Adam Marcinowicz is an example. Having attended the opening ceremony last year as a spectator, he was excited to join team 2XU Blackberry from the UAE.

The team has been training three times a week for three months, kayaking around the Palm in Dubai and running and mountain-biking in the desert. Mr Marcinowicz, who has participated in three adventure races in Europe, is concerned about how he will adjust to Abu Dhabi's arid climate.

For Faris al Sultan, the German-based captain of Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon, the difficulty is going to be adjusting to the tasks that are not already part of his typical triathlon training.

"Running and swimming is part of our daily schedule, but we won't be so familiar with mountaineering, climbing and navigation," he said. Last year, the team dropped out after a member broke her hand in the mountain-biking portion of the race.

"This year we want to finish and prove that we can do it," he said.