The Filipino members of the Runmadan challenge in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: It all started as a family run for two people seven years ago. 

"I was looking for an activity that my daughter and I could do during Ramadan. She was obese then and needed exercise," recalls Ross Pisuena, founder of community run Runmadan in Dubai. 

"My wife suggested that my daughter and I run from mosque to mosque," says the 48-year-old Filipino, explaining the inspiration behind the 30-day Ramadan run.

Video by Irish Eden Belleza

The father-daughter's first run was in Muhaisnah 4 in 2012. "We passed by two mosques. We ran every other night until the end of Ramadan," he says.

The exercise helped his daughter lose weight and inspired him to turn it into a yearly run with more Filipino friends and running enthusiasts on board.

His two-person running team has grown since and has been picked up by the Filipino Runners United group. At least 80 people now join the run from mosque to mosque throughout Ramadan, and they’re from all walks of life, Pisuena says.  

Runmadan runners have their different reasons of joining, Pisuena says. Some do it to make more friends; others do it for exercise, many do it for the sheer fun of running. “It’s become a training point for me to join marathons, and we have inspired a lot of triathletes as well,” he says.

218 mosques in 1 month

They aim to cover 218 mosques every month, and next year they want to run in all seven emirates. Their longest route so far is in Dubai's Rashidiya area, which has 27 mosques and spans 16 kilometres. Their shortest run is in Al Rafa, which covers 4 kilometres and 3 mosques. For the first time this year, they ran in Abu Dhabi.

Bam Rodriguez, 58, said this is her 6th year of the Runmadan. The assistant teacher said it is a fun way for her to spend her free time during Ramadan. 

“The working time is so short, so I wanted to meet friends. I love running, and I
want to stay fit,” Rodriguez says. “It's our way of celebrating Ramadan though we're not Muslims,” she adds.

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“I met a lot of people and learned a lot about Ramadan and the culture of Dubai and the places that we've seen,” says Camilo Echavia, a 34-year-old fitness and dragon boat coach who completed the 30-day run a few years ago.

Runmadan founder Pisuena has made sure the run is not just fun but informative. “When we make our stops, I tell the runners about the architectural design and history behind each mosque,” the Dubai-based architect says.

Business woman Marge Gomez, 40, joined the run in 2013 and hasn’t stopped since. 

“It’s an adventure and we go from mosque to mosque around the UAE,” Gomez says, adding that the run starts just after sundown.

She says that runners prepare themselves physically and mentally before the exercise. “We make sure we get enough sleep, and we eat at least three hours before the run,” she says.

The self-confessed “slow runner” says that since doing her daily runs during Ramadanm her health and endurance have improved. 

“I even ran the Dubai Marathon after that and I joined a lot of running challenges,” she says.

Her most memorable run with the group? Bur Dubai. “I love the mosques in Bur Dubai… After the run we rode an abra and paid one dirham. It was fun,” she says.