More than just a Run

ub-cool use every kilometre at Al Mouj Muscat Marathon 2017 to raise epilepsy awareness

Al Mouj Muscat Marathon 2017. Photo by Lloyd Images
Al Mouj Muscat Marathon 2017.
Photo by Lloyd Images

Oman was the port of call for the running world last weekend as record participants finished the 10k, half marathon and gruelling 26.2 mile Al Mouj Muscat Marathon, organized by Oman Sail and supported by Muscat Road Runners. Now in its sixth year, the race is one of the fastest growing and beautiful events in the Middle East, starting and ending its route at Al Mouj Muscat, a thriving waterfront community and lifestyle destination that inspired the runners’ first steps on their journey and greeted them with quiet splendor at the finish line.

Born in 2012 with 135 competitors, the marathon has quickly grown in awareness and stature with an 862% increase in participants since the inaugural race. Setting out from Al Mouj Muscat, Oman’s leading lifestyle destination, the runners enjoyed cool conditions to give their races a brisk start and Belgian athlete Pierre Breuer maintained his rapid pace through to the end posting a time of 02:42:51, eight minutes faster than the winning marathon time in 2016.

Omani runner Amer Al Amri finished in second place while 2016 winner of the women’s marathon Asta Parker defended her 2016 title with a time of 03:23:46. Another home-grown runner Abdullah Al Qarini won the men’s half marathon with Birgit Schulz taking the women’s medal and Yunos Abdullah Al Jabri, also from Oman knocked a full five minutes off last year’s 10km time with Maria Markovicova the winner of the women’s event.

Though an individual achievement, running is at its base a community event and this heart was on display during Al Mouj Muscat Marathon. ub-cool, the first online adventure hub, continued their global goal to spread Epilepsy Awareness through their ‘Epilepsy Challenge’. More than 20 participants from 11 countries took part in the marathon and contributed to the cause, with proceeds helping the Society for the Advancement of Epilepsy Research in Bonn University and at its partner facility at Addis Ababa University.

Al Mouj Muscat Marathon 2017. Photo by Lloyd Images
Al Mouj Muscat Marathon 2017.
Photo by Lloyd Images

Medina Ilyassova, ub-cool co-founder and organizer of the Epilepsy Warrior challenge, spoke jubilantly at the finish line:

“Since we started our work to raise epilepsy awareness, we’ve been overcome by how our own community at ub-cool and the wider network has come together. This year we aimed even higher with our goals, partnering with Oman Sail to help epileptic patients in Ethiopia, a country where medical insurance is non-existent and the government doesn’t provide any medical service. The Al Mouj Muscat Marathon is an event that prides itself on bringing people together so it is the perfect platform for us to highlight our cause. Personally, I have no words to express my appreciation! So many people got involved and really supported us for a good cause. I have always been a firm believer that ‘teamwork is dreamwork’, and we did a great job together trying to raise epilepsy awareness.”

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the brain that affects approximately 50 million people worldwide. Indiscriminant of age, Characterized by recurrent seizures, the disorder affects people of all ages with nearly 80% of those living with epilepsy located in low- and middle-income countries. Though most people with epilepsy respond to treatment about 70% of the time, those in three-fourths living in low- and middle-income countries do not always get the treatment they need and can suffer from stigma and discrimination.

Professor Christian Elger, who heads the Society for the Advancement of Epilepsy Research in the Bonn University and is himself a former ambassador for epilepsy with the United Nations, discussed the goal of the society and how the Epilepsy Warriors have helped:

“Our aim is to improve the epilepsy-service in a poor country in which patients cannot afford to go abroad. We want to do this by training staff here in Bonn and in Ethiopia. Because the treatment there is very weak, we hope to get scientific information upon disease courses in people without optimal treatment.”

Since in time at Bonn University, Professor Elger has treated many patients, including the son of Gizework Zewdie. Speaking on the success of the treatment and the real-life impact research and work around the disorder can have, she said:

“Professor Elger successfully treated my son, but more than that he is a real human being. Words are not enough to express my gratitude, love and respect for how [the treatment] helped us.”

Back at the finish line, Heather Louise Duncan, famed adventure blogger with ub-cool and a participant in the marathon as part of Epilepsy Warriors, commented on the experience:

“That was amazing, a truly unbelievable experience! The atmosphere here in Muscat and sense of community that this marathon instils is something special – in fact, there was so much support towards the end that I almost had to switch off! For me, this has been a journey defined by people coming together and just look what we can achieve when we do. I’m so proud of the team; we’ve done it and hopefully in the process can say we’ve helped those suffering from epilepsy in Ethiopia. This race was hard, but nothing compared to what they go through.”

Medina Ilyassova added, “We had 30+ people from 11 countries get involved, and can’t wait to return for the 2018 race with even higher goals!”

The annual Al Mouj Muscat Marathon is organized by Oman Sail and supported by Muscat Road Runners and features a full marathon, half marathon and 10 km run. A number of pioneering organisations also joined forces to maximise the potential of the event including Oman Air, BP Oman, Muscat Festival, Horizon Fitness, Tanuf and Strabag. For more information and to get involved, please visit http://muscatmarathon.om/.  

To get involved in ub-cool events or to contribute yourself, please visit: https://www.ub-cool.com/donate

Simon Balsom