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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 April 2019

Emirati runner sets sights on Makkah in epic endurance challenge

Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi is running 65km a day for 38 consecutive days from Abu Dhabi

Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi is running from Abu Dhabi to Makkah in just 38 days. Courtesy Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi
Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi is running from Abu Dhabi to Makkah in just 38 days. Courtesy Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi

Seven days into his epic 2,070-kilometre m run to Makkah and Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi has taken his first steps into Saudi Arabia.

Dr Al Suwaidi, 35, is beginning to find his stride a week after setting off from Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, as he aims to inspire others to lead a healthier life.

The Emirati academic, who specialises in international relations, is hoping to complete his challenge within 38 days.

He has faced his own battle with obesity, losing more than 50kg in three years after becoming a father and deciding to take up running and healthy eating.

“I’m trying to eat as well as I can, but this is just the beginning – I have another 1,700km to go,” said Dr Al Suwaidi during a pasta break on the road, 10km from the Saudi border.

“It is difficult to eat those calories every day, so I have had to build it up gradually.”

Technology is playing a big part in his mammoth effort.

Each night, he is accompanied by a support trailer equipped with a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to help his body recover, as he refuels for the next day.

After completing his daily target of 65km, he uses a NormaTec machine where electric pulses compress his muscles, increasing blood flow and accelerating recovery.

The biggest challenge is consuming the whopping 7,200 calories he needs to fuel his daily running challenge.

Fruit, vegetables and waffles make up a large percentage of his diet.

Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi fuels his runs with 7,200 calories each day. Courtesy Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi.
Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi fuels his runs with 7,200 calories each day. Courtesy Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi.

“Running is the easy part,” he said.

“When I get to my camp I have to rest, eat, take a shower, fix my feet, pray and then get physio treatment.

“Eating 3,000 calories in one sitting sounds easy, but it’s no fun.

“I then get into an oxygen chamber to recover, and get wired up to a rehydration drip every three days to replace all the essential nutrients I need.”

It is not the first time Dr Al Suwaidi has taken on an ultra-long-distance running challenge.

In February 2018, he ran from Fujairah to Port Zayed in Abu Dhabi, covering the 327km in only three days.

His efforts were to raise attention for the Rahma cancer charity, that supports people recovering from illness.

His latest run between the UAE and Saudi Arabia is to commemorate ties between the two nations.

“We all have to set high goals in life and the celebration of that is the preparation, not just the end result – that is the message,” he said.

“I’ve decided to do this run because people told me it was impossible, so I’ve trained for that.

“I’m not sure anyone else has run this far in this region before.

“I’m transcending boundaries, and I’ve already crossed the Saudi border.

"That is a small accomplishment towards a bigger goal.”

Updated: February 7, 2019 06:19 PM

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