ABRaS Athletic Club members taking part in a hill championship at Jebel Hafeet. All the members are gearing up for the Standard Chartered Marathon on Friday. ‘Our members come from all over Dubai and are very diverse with many different nationalities and cultural backgrounds, but all have one thing in common — a love of running,’ said the club’s chairperson and coach. Image Credit: Supplied picture

Dubai: ABRaS Athletic Club has been gearing up for the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday through systematic training methods and even by running up the hills of Jebel Hafeet to ensure they are fitter and faster for the event.

The club was founded in 2006 and grew under the husband and wife partnership of Nick and Anna Berrill. "Many of our members target Dubai Marathon as the priority as it is the major running event on the UAE racing calendar," said Anna Berrill, the club's chairperson and coach.

"This club emerged from a group of runners who regularly trained together. Although there were established running clubs in Dubai, catering for all standards, our training provided something different by incorporating different types of training, such as interval training. A structured, progressive approach was taken, focusing on improving runners' race times and performances," said Berrill.

Today this club has emerged as one of the most successful clubs in UAE races with ABRaS vests filling many of the top positions.

"Our club's training is planned and organised by experienced and qualified coaches and is designed to get the best out of the runner. Many runners recognise this and this has led to our rapid expansion. We have a coaching team made up of a club coach, assistant coach and junior coach. We also have a very active committee who work on behalf of the members to keep on improving the club," she said.

The name ABRaS AC stems from one of the founders and is the acronym for Anna Berrill Racing Stables Athletic Club. Anna is the club coach and in the early days the runners were referred to as coming from Anna Berrill's stables.

"We decided on this name as the word ‘abras' also has obvious cultural links with Dubai.

Our membership is growing every week and currently has over 100 members. We offer at least two structured training sessions every week, one on a 400 metre running track the other on quiet paths/roads, usually in the ‘new' Dubai area of the city or inside Safa Park. Supplementary runs are regularly organised too, in Dubai, or up Jebel Hafeet or in the wadis.

"The training is often considered hard but is always rewarding. Our members come from all over Dubai and are very diverse with many different nationalities and cultural backgrounds, but all have one thing in common — a love of running. There is also a strong desire to improve which is why many runners join us. This is obvious at every training session as runners gather excitedly at the thought of the hard training session ahead. This hard training has formed a bond between the members and many have become good friends, which has become the platform for a vibrant social scene," said Berrill.

Manage stress

"Some of the runners have very stressful jobs and through running they have managed their stress levels. A few have medical conditions and running has helped them to manage and mitigate the impact of these conditions. As well as enjoying running many members use the fitness they gain from training with the club to take on other challenges. Three of our members competed in the recent Abu Dhabi Adventure race, another summitted Mount Aconcagua in Argentina [highest peak outside of Asia] last week," she said.

To attract youngsters into running the club has formed a junior running club for children under 15. One of the youngest members is five-year-old Harrison.

"We are a very active club and organise the ABRaS Mina 10k Race Series at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi which is a three race 10 k series open to all runners to enter and run within the hotel grounds of Mina Seyahi and The Westin. We are also organising a cross-country race this year," said Berrill.

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