Ssenyange crosses the line in San Francisco Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: It’s been an amazing journey from Sonapur to San Francisco for Ugandan security guard Ismail Ssenyange. The 26-year-old is one of the hundreds of security guards living in the labour accommodation blocks in Dubai’s Sonapur area and is on duty at the Emirates ID Centre there. But what he achieved in San Francisco this week is stuff dreams are made of.

Ismail flew to the US to take part in the San Francisco Marathon on June 16, an annual event which is also the qualifier for the Boston Marathon. An incredible run saw him finish in second pace with a personal best time of 2:30:11. Incidentally, he only managed to go for this marathon because his trip was sponsored by Wipro who also sponsored the Chennai Marathon that he won last year.

The Ugandan is hoping his story will hopefully inspire more sponsors to come forward in support. After arriving in Dubai, he joined the Dubai Creek Striders, a club dedicated to long-distance running, and his fellow runners soon saw his talent and encouraged him to take part in his first big event in Chennai by sponsoring his trip, while his kit was taken care of by adidas.

He won that with a time of 2:36:22 with just two month’s practice in what was just his second full marathon, the first being way back in 2008 in Uganda. He then won the Johnson Arabia Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon in Dubai, the two victories separated by just four days!

But it is his second-place finish in San Francisco that is easily the highlight of his very short career that has seen him win over a dozen events within the span of one-and-half years.

“I could have won in San Francisco had the weather been kinder,” Ismail told XPRESS on return from the US.

“I am used to running here in Dubai at temperatures of 30-35 degrees. But it was freezing out there. Also, the course was hilly and again I am used to running on flat Dubai roads. Anyways, it was a great experience, something from which I have learnt a lot.”

Ismail practices in Sonapur and the surrounding areas. Three days a week, he runs from his home all the way to Mirdiff City Centre, through Mushrif Park and makes his way back along the road which leads back to his accommodation.

“I prefer to run in the mornings before going on duty, but with the rising heat, I will have to look at other options now. It is a bit tiring to be standing while on duty after that,” he said.

His 9am-4pm job hardly gives him enough time to pursue his talents but he is very clear about what he wants. “I train six days a week and rest for a day. I want to become a professional athlete. I am an elite marathon runner now, so I have automatic entry to any event, but my current timing is not so attractive. I hope to achieve 2:17:00, that’s one of my goals. I also want to take part in the Olympics,” he said.

Ismail was welcomed by his DCS teammates when he landed in Dubai on Tuesday evening. Going by his exploits, the time is not far when the whole of UAE will rise up to hail the achievements of this talented runner.