Like many kids, Dubai runner Victoria Leckie dreamt of becoming an elite athlete. But unlike most, she knew the pain and commitment it would take to get there. Now comes the payoff.
Dubai athlete wins first Adidas sponsorship deal
DUBAI // Victoria Leckie understood from a young age the commitment and sacrifice needed to excel in sport.
Now 35, the runner has just become the first athlete in the region to win sponsorship from the German sports giant Adidas.
Leckie sealed the deal last month, shortly before coming second in the women's Singapore ultra-marathon, a gruelling 100km, 12-hour race.
"Sport's a great metaphor for life really," she says. "You get out what you put in."
From the age of nine, living with her Scottish family in Hong Kong, Leckie started training at 5am every day as she was groomed to become a swimming champion. She would go on to compete around Asia, representing Hong Kong.
"I learnt from an early age that the hardest things in life are the most rewarding," Leckie says.
Hers was an active, outdoorsy family, regularly going on hikes and treks around the world, holidays geared towards activities.
It is the same today. Leckie picks her holidays according to the challenge to be found there, from the Swiss Alps to Borneo.
"It's a great way to travel the world," she says. "Singapore was a trip to see my sister who lives there."
Leckie is new to competition, having run her first competitive race, the Petra Marathon, in 2009.
"I saw this one and thought it was my kind of race - lots of different terrains. It was hilly, sandy, rocky," she says.
At first she signed up only for the half marathon, but the day before the race she decided to try the full 42km, despite having never run more than 27km.
She won, and last year went on to win the Amman Dead Sea Ultra Marathon, a 50km race also in Jordan.
"When you realise you're good at something, it goes hand in hand with enjoying something," Leckie says.
She usually racks up at least 100km a week. But now in training for Racing the Planet, a 250km, five-day race in the mountains of Nepal in November, she has increased that to 200km.
If she needs alterations done at her tailors in Satwa, she thinks nothing of running the 26km round trip from her home to get it done.
Leckie refuses to wear a watch to track her time or distance, preferring to listen to her body.
"If you let a horse out of the paddock, it doesn't get a spreadsheet out and plan, it just runs," she says.
"Some days I'll go out and think I'm not getting into this and go home after 1km, and other times I'll go down to Dubai Mall [10km away]."
Leckie's life is not all just running, though. She writes a blog - fitchicksandfastwomen.com - and works as a freelance communications consultant.
The Adidas sponsorship, she says, is recognition of her passion for running.
"I've shown a lot of commitment and dedication and made the sacrifices," Leckie says. "I've done well in events and worked really hard."
She was discovered by Eduard Massier, the marketing director of Adidas who is also a runner. Mr Massier saw her as a perfect ambassador to take the brand beyond its focus on football.
Adidas sponsored the Dubai Marathon in January and in December it will add the Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon to its events list.
Mr Massier hopes through her blog and events, Leckie will be a bridge to the UAE's sporting community. "She's very passionate," he says. "She's a runner, a mountaineer and into her fitness, and runs races all over the world, not just in the UAE, so it's good exposure."
If her sponsorship is judged a success, Mr Massier says there may be more for the wealth of talent in the UAE, one of its target countries in the region.
Terry Hislop, the chairman of the Dubai Creek Striders running club, says the company's support for the event in December was a big boost, and an acknowledgement of the sport's growing popularity here and the event's importance.
"Five years ago we had 400 runners and this year we're expecting between 1,300 and 1,500," Mr Hislop says, adding Leckie's sponsorship was a positive sign for athletes.
"It encourages other people to reach to the top."