Kifah Sbeitan participating in the home marathon
Kifah Sbeitan participating in the home marathon Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai hosted its first-ever “Home Marathon” on Friday with over 750 participations from around the world turning their homes into a 42-km running track.

The initiative was founded by Foad Naser, a Jordanian resident in Dubai and founder of the 5:30 Run club.

Dubai Sports Council (DSC), in collaboration with Asics Middle East supported the unique concept of a ‘Marathon at Home’, as part of its ‘Be Fit, Be Safe’ and #stayhome campaigns.

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Event founder Foad Naser Image Credit: Supplied

Naser, a civil engineer and fitness instructor, also participated, completing 45-km between his living room and bedroom.

“The idea was to get people to participate even if they don’t complete the 42km,” he said. “Many people wanted to try it out, they thought it would be impossible indoors. We had people running in balconies, up and down their stairs or around their bedroom. People were getting creative and the only rule was that it remains indoors.”

The unique event was streamed live on Instagram from Dubai Sports Councils’ account.

“We had participation from many countries, and everyone was running at home. We had runners from Saudi, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan. There were even participations in the UK and the United States,” said Naser.

Positivity and a sense of community

Naser believes that while the physical aspect was the driving force behind the initiative, there was also a psychological incentive.

“On the day of the run we didn’t read or hear anything about coronavirus, we were all caught up in the excitement of the marathon. All the messages on social media were positive that day. This was the most important thing for me,” he said.

The initiative brought many people together and Naser believes that it is that sense of community that inspires people to participate.

“I can open up a home workout video and stay active that way, but I would be a lot more motivated if I was working out or running with people all around the world. It’s that sense of community that inspires us.

“Although there are a lot of challenges, there were some positives to a home marathon. The duration of the race was 10 hours from 8am to 6pm. The reason for that is that I wanted people to take their time and enjoy the experience. They could take breaks, eat and even nap or watch a movie before continuing. In a normal marathon it’s a struggle to even stop for a bathroom break,” he added.

Other runners praise the initiative

Participant Sara Elissa, a Palestinian resident in Dubai, had never completed a 42-km marathon before.

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Sara Elissa running a 10-km race in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

“At first when I heard about it, I didn’t consider for a moment that I would participate. However, Foad really encouraged me to at least give it a shot. I started the marathon running from the living room to the kitchen, my family were kind enough to stay in their rooms while I ran,” she said.

“The experience was mentally and physically exhausting but during my breaks I would receive endless support from people on Instagram, commenting on my marathon as I updated the progress,” added the 24-year-old. “During those breaks, I felt that I may give up, but those messages kept me going. I managed to complete the entire 42km which I’ve never done before. It taught me that if you have the will, you can do it.”

Fellow participant Kifah Sbeitan from Jordan said she had run several marathons before but nothing like this.

“Usually in most runs you have a route and a long distance where a person can speed up at their own pace and it’s much more comfortable. No matter how big your home is, there’s never enough space for a marathon. It was an amazing challenge and I would love to repeat it,” she said.

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Kifah Sbeitan being awarded a trophy by her two children after the home marathon Image Credit: Supplied

“Many people are away from their families and are experiencing some depression. This initiative mainly brought people together and improved their mental wellbeing. The incentive is more psychological rather than physical in this marathon. It’s about how much we can adapt to the situation we’re all in.

“My 12-year-old daughter also participated and ran around 5-km. We created a 50-metre route from the living room, through the kitchen and to the garden. I had to run this route 843 times to complete the 42km,” she added.

Future marathons

The founder of this initiative, Naser said, “We are still working on more challenges for people to participate in. We want to inspire people but also help them forget about coronavirus and all the negative news. On the day of our marathon people even forgot that they were staying home, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.” He adds, “We’re planning a new initiative in a week or two, where we aim to spread more positivity.”