Dubai: With three words — ‘Let’s do it’ — Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, led around 146,000 runners of various nationalities, ages and abilities who turned Sheikh Zayed Road into one “giant running track” for the annual Dubai Run on Friday.
For one morning only, the city’s biggest, free-to-enter fun run on the penultimate day of Dubai Fitness Challenge 2021 saw thousands of people occupying a part of Dubai’s major highway. They ran, walked, hopped, danced and took numerous photos, selfies and videos as they went past some of Dubai’s iconic buildings and landmarks along Sheikh Zayed Road.
Before the start of the run, Sheikh Hamdan, the man behind the annual Dubai Fitness Challenge, took to his official Instagram (IG) and posted his running kit, with number 3 bib.
Sheikh Hamdan arrived on site at 5.44am and captioned his IG story — ‘Ready for Dubai Run 2021’. Like all the runners, he started near the Museum of the Future and before conquering the road, he took a selfie with eager and jubilant runners and captioned it — ‘Let’s do it’.
He then ended his IG story with a photo showing a mammoth crowd of runners and health enthusiasts occupying Sheikh Zayed Road.
The runners were off to a strong start. They came in pairs, groups of threes, fours, fives and more – transforming the iconic Sheikh Zayed Road into one massive running track. They woke up before the break of dawn and headed to the World Trade Centre Metro Station to join in the 5km run route; while those who registered for the 10km route, started from the Emirates Towers Metro Station.
People who were running, walking, strutting, dancing and hopping – not cars – occupied Sheikh Zayed Road (from Dubai World Trade Centre roundabout until the first interchange at Dubai Mall bridge) for five hours from 4am until 9am. Adjacent roads which were used for the 10km were closed for an additional hour, until 10 am, and authorities earlier advised motorists to take alternative roads.
Participants arrived as early as 3am to be on the frontlines at the starting point and to make the most of this fun-filled experience. Both the 5km and 10km routes started near Museum of the Future and finish line was set near Dubai World Trade Centre, with the longer route also taking in The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai and Burj Khalifa routes.
Aside from having fun on a cool and breezy morning, promoting a healthy lifestyle was one main reasons why people signed up for Dubai Run. Filipino expat Jennilyn Encila, 28, said it was her second time to join in the fun run and maintaining an active lifestyle was her motivation.
Indian expat Mustafa Bangerda, 24, meanwhile, joined for the first time. He said he was happy to wake up early and have fun with friends as they ran on Sheikh Zayed Road.
‘A family that runs together have fun together’ was the comment by 71-year-old Suseela Ambujakshan, who hails from Kerala. She told Gulf News: “I have been in Dubai with my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in the last 15 years. It has always been my dream to run as a family and I thank this beautiful city of Dubai for making it happen. It (Dubai Run) was an exciting experience and I look forward to participating in more such events.”
It was also a family affair for Armenian expat Areg Papoyan, who participated in Dubai Run with his wife Aleksandra Radoshnova, and their three-year old daughter Alicia. “We’re proud of our three-year old who woke up very early to run with us,” said Papoyan, whose family is joined by a dozen friends and colleagues during the 10km run.
Mark and Rissa Reyes also brought their daughters – 10 and 11 years old – to join in Dubai Run.
Mark told Gulf News: “This (Dubai Run) was like a gift and privilege given to us, Dubai residents. Imagine for one morning, you were given a chance to occupy the middle of Sheikh Zayed Road while taking pictures of the iconic buildings as you run and have fun.”
“This has been a good bonding opportunity for our family,” added Rissa.
Savour the moment
All runners in both the 5km and 10km were required to complete their run by 9.30am. Organisers said: “Dubai Run is a great way to spend quality time with friends and family, so savour the experience, take plenty of photos and share them on your social feeds.”