Muscat – Omani trail running champions Hamed al Harthi, Hamdan al Khatri, Mohammed al Shizawi and Issa al Abri etched their names in history as they conquered the arduous challenges of the 2023 UTMB Mont Blanc. These trailblazers embarked on a journey that needed grit and determination, and left an indelible mark on the world of trail running.
Harthi, Khatri and Shizawi undertook the daunting task of conquering the UTMB Mont Blanc distance, an awe-inspiring 171km of treacherous terrain, while Abri, a force to be reckoned with, took part in the equally formidable CCC race – a staggering 100km of relentless trails.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Harthi emphasised the honour they felt in representing Oman on the global stage of the UTMB Mont Blanc. Completing the UTMB race wasn’t just a personal achievement for Harthi; it was a triumphant moment for Oman’s trail running community. Expressing pride in his accomplishment, Harthi stated, “Finishing the UTMB reflects the strong commitment of Oman’s trail runners. This shared accomplishment underscores the resilience and dedication of our athletes on the international trail running platform.”
Commenting on the tough race, he added, “My UTMB journey proved incredibly demanding. I often refer to this race as ‘the mother of all trail races’! The high altitude and harsh cold weather present formidable obstacles, especially given the extensive climbs involved. The final kilometres posed an immense challenge, requiring a concerted focus on nutrition to persevere”.
Khatri faced a setback due to a recent injury prior to the race, yet his unwavering spirit stood strong. He withdrew at 11:41:51 at Lac Combal. “My objective was to gain experience and up-skill while maintaining a steady pace without pushing beyond my limits. At a point, I had to call it off, but the experience has been a profound learning curve and I look forward to the next challenge”.
The Omani athletes’ determination and performances were hailed as they crossed the finish line. Harthi finished the 171km race in 46:12:01, securing a commendable 26th rank within his category. Shizawi completed the demanding course in 44:11:10. Meanwhile, Abri crossed the finish line of the CCC race with a time of 21:45:17.
The journey of these athletes was accentuated by the unwavering support of the Himam Trail Run Race team, who provided crucial planning and technical assistance. Its collaboration with athletes like Ahmed al Fahdi, Ali al Balushi and Sultan al Shereiqi exemplifies the collective spirit of teamwork in propelling these trail runners to their finest potential.
The 2023 UTMB Mont Blanc, the pinnacle in the world of trail running, witnessed victories for the USA’s Jim Walmsley and Courtney Dauwalter, underlining the global stature of the event. Evolving into the UTMB World Series Finals this year, the event expanded beyond a mere race into a worldwide celebration of running culture. Held from August 28 to September 3, the festival-like atmosphere captured the very essence of the endurance challenge, offering an array of races and encounters that have evolved over time, bringing together athletes from many corners of the globe.
This monumental endeavour by the Omani trail running champions aligns with the surge of popularity that trail running is experiencing within Oman. The sultanate, endowed with breathtaking landscapes, is fostering a growing community of trail runners who embrace nature’s challenges. The immense expanse of the Al Hajar Mountains, a majestic range that stretches over 700km across the northeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, presents an ideal playground for trail enthusiasts.
As the UTMB journey culminates, the athletes turn their gaze towards the upcoming Himam Trail Run Race edition scheduled for November 23 to 25, 2023.