x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

The only way is up for marathon winner

More than 200 runners scale 52 flights of stairs at Jumeirah Emirates Towers to raise money for a humanitarian medical aid organisation.

Norbert Lechner after winning the verical marathon at Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
Norbert Lechner after winning the verical marathon at Jumeirah Emirates Towers.

DUBAI // Every day Norbert Lechner scales mountains in his home country of Austria or runs up the stairs of high-rises in New York, Sao Paulo, London or Vienna.

But the 52 flights of stairs at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, the venue for yesterday's Medecins Sans Frontieres Dubai Vertical Marathon, are the toughest for him.

"It was bit difficult here compared to other places … the heat seems to be quite high in Dubai," said Mr Lechner, who ran up the 350-metre building in 8 minutes and 47 seconds to win the marathon.

Mr Lechner, last year's runner-up, was among more than 200 runners who raised Dh170,000 to support Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a humanitarian medical aid organisation which works in more than 60 countries.

The winning female runner, Martha Rise from Norway, finished in just 10 min 24 sec.

And members of the leading team, from the Dubai American Academy, made it in an average of 10 min 50 sec.

"It's a fantastic feeling," Ms Rise said. "This is my first run and I never thought I would win. It's a surprise.

"Though there were a lot of stairs with turns, I am happy that I did it for a good cause and to support a humanitarian organisation."

MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, works in trouble spots such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Palestinian Territories, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Syria, said Ghada Hatim, the group's executive director.

The organisation, which was established 40 years ago by a group of journalists and doctors, has offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and 3,600 volunteers around the world.

"We work in regions affected with armed conflicts, natural disasters and epidemic diseases," Ms Hatim said. "We are also working along the border of Syria to help the refugees."

Tim Dorrington, the sports and leisure manager of Jumeirah Emirates Towers, said he was surprised by the number of participants in yesterday's race.

"We would like to congratulate and thank all participants for their mammoth effort, without which the day would not have been possible," Mr Dorrington said.

Other winners were Harriet Bicknell in the female junior category and Albert Fakhretdinov in the male junior category.