New York: After nine years of helping the people of America get active, raise funds for a good cause and see world class athletes in action, the Healthy Kidney 10k could soon expand with a new race in the UAE.

Millions of dollars have been raised or donated to the National Kidney Foundation in memory of the founding father and first President of the UAE, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, since the event was inaugurated in 2005. And with big celebrations planned for the 10th running in May next year, organisers have suggested a reciprocal race could be brought to the event’s ‘home’.

New York Road Runners are in charge of the annual run in New York’s Central Park and their president and CEO, Mary Wittenberg, believes the UAE could benefit greatly from its own race.

“We have talked about it [having a similar race in the UAE] many times and we certainly would welcome that opportunity. It seems like a natural progression,” Wittenberg said.

“The UAE over the last 10 years has seen a big change in running. They have the Dubai Marathon, the RAK Half Marathon, Abu Dhabi — there are a number of big, big races, important races in the UAE that didn’t exist 10 years ago or were much smaller then.

“Participation in running has also grown in the UAE, especially for women. Ten years ago there were very few women running and even that was in the fitness clubs, but it’s become something more significant now. I hope we’ve played some little part in that growth in running and fitness.

“The UAE has 42k [marathon] and 20k [half-marathon] events that have become big events, so the 10k is a real opportunity to welcome even more people, particularly more women, into running. That is something we would be interested to learn more about. There’s always opportunities to think about how it can continue to inspire people to run year-round and opportunities such as having a similar event in the UAE.

“We want to focus on this, continue building it and always be open to other opportunities.”

Lieutenant General Mohammad Hilal Al Kaabi, chairman of the board of directors of the Armed Forces Officers Club, led the UAE delegation to New York for the 2013 Healthy Kidney 10k race, which took place last month, and he was keen to see the event expand.

“For nine years we have been doing this run and we are looking forward to doing more in the future,” he said. “I remember, at the beginning, we had hardly more than 2,000 runners and last year they closed Central Park because there were so many. We are proud to continue.”