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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Emirati's 327km ultra running challenge in 3 days for cancer charity

Dr Khaled Jamal Al Suwaidi will trek from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi to promote cancer charity Rahma 

Emirati runner Dr Khaled Jamal Al Suwaidi will run from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi to promote healthy living and the cancer charity Rahma. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
Emirati runner Dr Khaled Jamal Al Suwaidi will run from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi to promote healthy living and the cancer charity Rahma. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Just three years after first pulling on his running shoes, when he still weighed more than 120 kilograms, Khaled Al Suwaidi is preparing to run 327 kilometres to help his father’s cancer charity.

Now a rather more lightweight 72kg, the 34-year-old Emirati will run from Fujairah to Port Zayed in Abu Dhabi next month – in only three days.

Mr Al Suwaidi hopes to bring some attention to the cancer charity Rahma, now led by his sister Nora Al Suwaidi, to help more patients receive the help they need when their insurance cover often falls short.

No stone has been left unturned in Mr Al Suwaidi’s preparation for his challenge. From running up and down some of the UAE’s tallest peaks to drastically changing his diet, his transformation in body and soul is almost complete.

“It has always been a dream of mine to run a long distance like this,” said the executive director of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi.

“It is a lifestyle change. I became a father of twins five months ago so my health has become even more important. I wanted to challenge myself and it was a good opportunity to get involved with Rahma.”

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Mr Al Suwaidi has run more than 2,700km since June and the only meat he eats is fish.

“I was leading the worst possible lifestyle. Now it is the best possible way,” he said.

“I am not made of steel but running has taken me out of my comfort zone. We all need to get outside of our bubble and ask what we are doing wrong in our lives.”

Mountain running has given him an extra incentive during the gruelling hours on the road.

Mr Al Suwaidi is believed to be the first Emirati to run up and down Jebel Hafeet, the 1,200-metre-high mountain in Al Ain, twice in the same day.

He did that this year, running 175km on the mountain trails in just six days, with a total ascent of more than 8,000 ­metres. He has also run 80km in 24 hours along Al Wathba cycle track in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Emirati runner, Dr. Khaled Jamal Al Suwaidi will be running from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi to make awareness for people leading healthier lives and cancer at Abu Dhabi Ports on January 17, 2018. (Khushnum Bhandari/ The National)
Emirati runner Dr Khaled Jamal Al Suwaidi will run from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi - 327km - to promote the cancer charity Rahma. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

“After 200km or so, it’s all in the mind,” Mr Al Suwaidi said. “I’ve put myself in the best possible place to finish this run. It has not been easy so you have to be both physically and mentally ready.

“Inside, I’m the same person but my life has completely changed. Getting married and becoming a father has given me a healthier focus, but it doesn’t happen overnight and takes a lot of hard work. It is boring, but the results are worth it.”

He plans to run 120km a day, and with between two and three hours of sleep a day hopes to complete the route in 65 to 70 hours.

After each day of running, intravenous mineral replacements and fluids will be pumped into Mr Al Suwaidi’s body to help him recover.

Lee Harris, an ultra marathon coach, has been helping him to prepare for his challenge.

“Ultra running is probably the toughest thing you can do to the mind and body,” he said.

“Running these long distances is not easy and by doing this Khaled is putting himself in a very small community of people who are prepared to do this type of distance.

“The amount of drive, motivation and training he has put in over the past 3 to 4 months has been exceptional.”

The run is being sponsored by Abu Dhabi Ports, which marked the official fund-raising launch for the February run with its own 2km run for staff and event supporters.

Rahma – the Cancer Patient Care Society, was formed almost three years ago by the Ministry of Community Development and the author and strategic expert Jamal Al Suwaidi.

He was diagnosed with lymphoma and was given just two weeks to live at one stage. After treatment, he is now in remission.

His daughter Nora is director general of the charity.

“Our genes load the gun but it is environmental factors that pull the trigger in the health of all of us,” she said. “We will fund-raise during the run and raise awareness on social media of the work Rahma does.

“We hope there will be a legacy of a community run every year in future, to help continue our work. The sky is the limit to what we want to achieve.”