First Abu Dhabi Marathon: a day of smiles and personal bests
It was a day of big smiles and personal bests as athletes and recreational runners alike hit the tarmac for the first Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon on Friday.
Kenya's Marius Kipserem, 30, took the men's title in just over two hours, bettering his personal best by almost two minutes, and Ethiopia's Ababel Yeshaneh won the women’s race in 2.20 – almost 13 minutes faster than her previous best.
And despite warmer temperatures than have been seen in the capital in recent days, the records just seemed to keep coming for participants.
Mohammed Ahmed Hama, 45, a medical centre worker from Ghana who has lived in Dubai for 11 years, shaved 18 minutes off his marathon time from January, despite little training.
“I have been running marathons since I moved to the UAE – I have done the Dubai marathon, the Ras Al Khaimah marathon,” he said.
“When I heard about the inaugural Abu Dhabi marathon, I was so happy. It was unexpected, and I didn’t prepare for it but it was the best time I have ever made for a marathon.”
He managed to complete it in an impressive three hours and seven minutes, before heading to the race village to meet friends.
“I really enjoyed the run. I was going to do below three hours, but at 38 kilometres I started to get cramps so I had to slow down,” he said.
“So far, it is better than the other marathons. I really enjoyed it because I made a good time. But I hope to improve my time for the Dubai marathon.
“Wherever the run is, you will find me there.”
Jane Hall, a teacher from New Zealand who has lived in the capital for 15 years, won the 10 kilometre race in the over 61s category. And it was her best race time for years.
“I started running 10ks when I came to AD,” she said.
“Today was great, there was lots of atmosphere and I didn’t realise so many people would take part in the race.
“I did a really good time, my best time at just over one hour. I haven’t done that for five years so I’m very happy.
Ms Hall collected her winners' medal from the main stage in the race village, before heading off to have a coffee and go to bed early.
Brian Connell, 55, from Manchester in the UK, and wife Sue, who had earlier completed the 10km run, chatted over the barriers near the finish line as Mr Connell caught his breath. He had just finished his fifth marathon, but first in the UAE.
They booked a week-long holiday to Abu Dhabi after seeing the new marathon was to launch and are going home on Saturday.
“Abu Dhabi is wonderful, I’ve loved [the race],” said Mr Connell.
“It’s a fantastic course – you see everything, it takes you around all of the sights. The event is wonderful and everything is so well done. But so is everything in Abu Dhabi, so I’m happy.
“But it was the hardest marathon I’ve ever done … it really is hot.”
The couple said they have enjoyed it so much they will be back for the Dubai marathon next year.
Languishing in the ice baths soothing his sore muscles, James Mckevitt, 33, from Ireland, also came to the UAE especially for the marathon to take part alongside his brother, who lives here. It was their first marathon, and Mr McKevit managed a time of three hours and 45 minutes.
And nearby, bobbing to loud pop music and surrounded by food trucks, Chris Arines, 36, took part in the race while on holiday from The Philippines.
He is planning to spend Christmas and New Year in the capital as his sister and cousins live here.
“This is a great start for our holiday. My mum arrived yesterday and the first thing she did was run this race,” he said.
Mr Aynis and his mother took part in the 2.5km route.
“This is such an historic event so we wanted to be a part of it.
“Our first impressions are that it was well organised and it is fun that they have something like [the race village] – usually during races they just focus on the event, but something like this creates a party atmosphere."
With bouncy castles and entertainment, the village was bustling with runners and their friends and family. And what was the one thing on most people's mind? Food, of course.
Rajesh Katt, 42, a sales manager from India who lives in Abu Dhabi relaxed on a bean bag after finishing two races – a 10k and then 5k with his younger daughter, who ran the whole thing in just 35 minutes.
Other daughter Nantara, 14, competed in her first race, managing 10km in just one hour five minutes. She had her sights now steadily fixed on her reward - "pizza ... any flavour, I don't care."