Ahmad Al Kamali, the Event General Coordinator and President of the UAE Athletics Federation. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: It’s a proud moment for Ahmad Al Kamali, the Event General Coordinator and President of the UAE Athletics Federation, when the starter’s gun gets the 20th edition of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon under way on Friday. Two decades ago it was Kamali, who visualised this marathon and transformed it into one among the best long-distance races in the world.

Speaking to Gulf News, Kamali recalled with pride the impact this marathon has created and said: “The Dubai marathon’s 20-year journey has been special. Every year there has been an increase in participation and we are happy that the record for participation has been broken repeatedly. From just over 100 people that took part two decades ago, today we have nearly 30,000 people taking part. There has been a consistent increase in the participation in all the categories, be it marathon, 10km and 4km events. Not only people in UAE but even from abroad look forward to take part in this marathon.”

Kamali, who rose to become the head of UAE Athletics Federation, is happy that through Dubai Marathon he has been able to spread the message of fitness among the people. “Three months before the Dubai marathon we can now see many training for it,” he said. “The Dubai Marathon has spread the message of fitness among the people. We have, through this event, given the chance to everybody to participate. Families can take part through the 4km race and the normal runner can compete in the 10km race, while the professional athletes can run in the marathon.”

Kamali turns nostalgic when he recalls each of the 20 years. “My son was only one year old when I was organising the first marathon and today he is 21-years-old,” he said. “Our dream is to make the Dubai Marathon one among the best marathons in the world and that was supported by the government and all its departments. The people lining up to watch the race have increased too and you can now see an ocean of people at the event. The sponsors, who have supported us, have understood the magnitude of the event and have continued their support. For 15 consecutive years Standard Chartered Bank is our title sponsors.”

Kamali is happy that more runners from different parts of the world are flying into to participate. “The fame of our marathon and the facilities have spread far and wide,” he said. “This time we have a lot of Japanese runners taking part and this is a good sign. There are athletes even from Belarus. So many nationalities now take part in this race. The temperature hovers around 13 to 14 degree at night and by the time of the start it is the apt weather for marathon. All conditions are favourable for even setting a course record.”

In the 2018 edition the course records for the men’s and women’s races were broken.