Dubai: Every day, during Ramadan, one hour before iftar, 48-year old Syrian expat Tariq Al Debsi would tie his shoestrings to prepare for a 10-12km run around the city before ending his fast.
After having a good meal and finishing the evening prayer, he would again hit the road at around 10.30pm for another set of 10-12 km. On an average, he had been running between 20-24 kms daily and he has covered more than 600km, a day before the end of the holy month. He has never missed a day running and he has been fasting every day.
An architect by profession, Al Debsi, who works as a general manager for an interior products company, told Gulf News: “Running keeps me fit and healthy. The (coronavirus) pandemic has taught us to be really mindful of our health. There are many ways to have a healthy and active lifestyle and running is one of the cheapest ways to stay fit and healthy. With running, you don’t need fancy equipment — just a good pair of running shoes. You also don’t need a field or court, unlike football or basketball. There are so many open areas and running tracks in Dubai — like the beach, public parks and community grounds,” he added.
Al Debsi, who has been living in Dubai for 42 years now, noted: “Running improves cardiovascular fitness and helps boost your immune system. Those who run or do physical exercises have reduced risks to diseases compared to sedentary individuals. Even with concerns over COVID-19, going for a quick run around the neighbourhood is a safe and effective way to maintain fitness. Going outside for a quick run is best for one’s health, as long as you observe proper safety measures.”
Running during Ramadan for Al Debsi also had a personal reason. He was participating in a Ramadan run challenge initiated by a global sports brand. “The challenge is not about who registers the fastest time in running but the distance you covered. The more coverage, the better chance you win the challenge.”
“Running while fasting is really difficult,” said Tariq, adding: “That is why I divided my daily run into two sets — one before iftar and the other after iftar. I chose to run close to Iftar time, so I can immediately hydrate after covering 10-12km, then I kept myself hydrated the whole time for the second set.”
“The running challenge tested my patience and endurance, but it was never boring because sometimes, I ran with friends and my son and there was also group running,” added Al Debsi, who took running as a serious sport six years ago.
Aside from the Ramadan challenge, Al Debsi had participated in several local and international marathons. His personal best for a full marathon (42km) is four hours and last year he participated in a virtual marathon at home. He also finished second place in his age category in one of the recent races he joined.
Now that Ramadan is over, Al Debsi said he would take a break from the daily run to help his body recover from the intensive exercise. Then he would continue to run three-four times a week, covering 20km per run.
Al Debsi added he was also training to become a triathlete, adding swimming and biking to his regimen.
He said: “I’m almost 50 years old, but I feel like I’m only 30. I will keep on running and continue to take care of my health and I hope others will do the same.”