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Sheikh Hamdan led the world’s largest fun run event — Dubai Run — on Sheikh Zayed Road. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Price of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, , today led the world’s largest fun run event - Dubai Run - on Sheikh Zayed Road as over 226,000 fitness enthusiasts joined him on the occasion.

The “orange army” of runners and walkers took over Dubai’s iconic Sheikh Zayed Road to participate in Dubai Run 2023, marking the end of the month-long Dubai Fitness Challenge on Sunday morning.

In a remarkable display of unity, Sheikh Hamdan, together with UAE astronauts Dr. Sultan Alneyadi and Hazzaa Almansoori, joined the wider community on the 10km route to show their shared passion for fitness. Joining the run were also Dr Al Neyadi’s fellow Expedition 69 crew members from his historic mission aboard the International Space Station, including American astronauts Stephen Bowen, Warren Hoburg, and Francisco Rubio, as well as Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopev, Dimitrii Petelin, and Andrei Fediaev.

Their presence and participation served as a powerful testament to the transformative power of embracing a healthy lifestyle, acting as true inspirations to all.

Dr. Al Neyadi had carried the Dubai Fitness Challenge flag during his historic six-month journey aboard the International Space Station, marking the longest voyage undertaken by an Arab astronaut. This symbolic act aimed to reiterate the significance of daily exercise and an active lifestyle in the UAE. As the flag floated gracefully in the weightlessness of space, against the backdrop of planet Earth, it served as a powerful testament to the indomitable spirit of exploration and the global pursuit of health and well-being.

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Dubai Run turned Dubai's Sheikh Zayed Road into a sea of orange today morning. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Runners had two routes to choose from - a 10km route and a 5km route. The 5km route began on Sheikh Zayed Road, near the Museum of the Future, passed the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Opera and ended near Dubai Mall. It was a flat route, suitable for runners of all ages and abilities.

The 10km route also started near the Museum of the Future, but took runners along a longer route - crossing the Dubai Canal bridge, then looping along Sheik Zayed Road and finishing at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Gate. This was recommended for more experienced runners.

Dubai’s spirit of unity and camaraderie was on display when people of various abilities and nationalities took part in the event that transformed Sheikh Zayed Road into a giant running track.

People of all ages mainly sporting the orange-themed T-shirts took over the highway with the accompaniment of loud music cheering them up.

It was the once-a-year opportunity for many, especially the shutterbugs and social media stars, to capture photos on the otherwise busy motorway, with the iconic buildings including the world’s tallest tower Burj Khalifa and the Museum of the Future in the background.

Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), said: “We are thrilled to witness the overwhelming success of this year’s Dubai Run, presented by Mai Dubai. The participation of hundreds of thousands of people from diverse backgrounds truly reflects the spirit of unity and inclusivity that Dubai embodies. Transforming Sheikh Zayed Road into a giant running track and showcasing Dubai’s iconic landmarks added an unparalleled charm to the event. We are proud to see Dubai Run cement its position as the world’s largest community fun run, and extend our gratitude to everyone who contributed to its resounding success.”

Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, said: “Dubai Run has once again exemplified the power of sports in bringing people together and igniting a sense of unity and camaraderie. The overwhelming turnout and enthusiasm displayed by hundreds of thousands of runners is a testament to Dubai’s commitment to promoting a health-conscious and active lifestyle for all. Events like Dubai Run play a pivotal role in fostering a robust sports environment in the emirate, providing residents and visitors with diverse opportunities to engage in physical activities and embrace wellness. Dubai Sports Council remains steadfast in its dedication to creating a sustainable sports ecosystem that caters to the aspirations of individuals from all walks of life. We celebrate the success of Dubai Run and look forward to continually inspiring the community to lead active and fulfilling lives through sports and fitness.”

What the runners have to say

Grace Zacarias, who works with a luxury hotel, came along with her husband and three children aged nine and five years and eight months as well as her sister.

Grace Zacarias, second from right, shows a thumbs-up sign as she poses for a picture with her family. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

“We are a fitness-conscious family. I have participated in all the editions of Dubai Run except for last year’s because I was pregnant with my daughter then. It is a great initiative to spread the message of fitness in the community. We want to pass on that message to our children,” said the Filipina mother.

Mohammed Yousuf Javed, an Indian expat who lost his left arm and had to implant steel rods in both his legs after falling off a train in Mumbai 35 years ago, was yet another regular walker at Dubai Run.

Mohammed Yousuf Javed Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

“This is a great initiative by Sheikh Hamdan for the health and fitness of all the people. Spending 30 minutes a day for your health and fitness should be part of everyone’s life not just during the fitness challenge. Being a person on determination, I participate in Dubai Run every year to convey the message that it is meant for people of all abilities. I hope I can inspire some people,” said Javed who took a bus from Al Khan in Sharjah to join the 5km run.

American expat Mike Arnold has been living in a skyscraper along Sheikh Zayed for several years. He has always watched the runners from his tower, but never managed to take part in the run. This time, he decided to walk along with his wife.

Mike Arnold and his wife. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News.

“I wonder why we never joined. This time, we suddenly decided to join the 5km runners. We are so happy because it is a celebration of life and the community here,” said Arnold, an artist.

Short-statured Bon Kim and three of his colleagues with the same condition turned many heads.

Bon Kim, extreme right, and his colleagues. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News.

Kim said: “We work as entertainers at a hotel in Dubai Media City. I have been living here for four years. This is the first time I got a chance to take part in Dubai Run. I have taken part in similar runs in the Philippines. Here, it is different because you are walking with people from so many countries. I am very happy about it and I am amazed to see all the tall buildings across Sheikh Zayed while walking on the highway. But I am also a little shy because many people are looking at us.”

Ikram Mohammed, an office manager in Dubai, came with his wife, three children and two cousins.

Ikram Mohammed, left (holding stroller) with his family. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

“This is our fifth time in Dubai Run. I love it when it is Dubai Fitness Challenge here. I participate in many events along with my family. We went for cycling, jogging and gymnastic events at different fitness villages this time. But Dubai Run is our most favourite activity as part for the fitness challenge. We love taking part in this along with tens of thousands of people,” said Mohammed.

Colleagues from various companies and students from different schools also took part as big groups. Some participants were seen holding the UAE flag and placards while they ran or walked.