With most 2020 races cancelled due to the pandemic, the nation’s runners, triathletes and OCR (obstacle course racing) enthusiasts will be feeling more ready than ever to experience the buzz of competitive racing and have something to train for. Fear not, this winter is filled with countless opportunities to push yourself beyond your limits. Here are 6 of the best:
Gritty, filthy and demanding, one of the world’s most famous obstacle races is returning to Al Ain Zoo with more imaginative and tougher obstacles. Test yourself in new and wonderful ways by battling barbed wire, walls, ropes and fire. Available in three levels: Sprint (5km/20 obstacles), Super (10km/25 obstacles) and the four-hour Hurricane Heat team challenge, there’s something for all fitness levels. Abu Dhabi is also hosting the Spartan Agoge, a 60-hour extreme endurance feat, the Spartan World Championship and the Abu Dhabi Spartan Trail 50km later this year. At this rate, we’ll all be unstoppable obstacle-course pros by 2022.
Friday, November 5. From Dhs330.
The World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi
Don’t worry, this doesn’t involve competing against the world’s best elite triathletes. The amateur races at the two-day triathlon festival take place the day after the professionals have wowed the crowds with their record-breaking performances. Offering Super Sprint, Sprint and Olympic routes, it’s a truly unforgettable event in a very special setting. Steam across the clear blue waters of Yas Marina, tear around Yas Marina circuit on a bike and run like you’ve never run before around the UAE’s most adrenaline-fuelled island.
Saturday, November 6. From Dhs570.
Desert Warrior Challenge
OCR has exploded in the UAE in recent years, and one of the most popular events is the homegrown Desert Warrior Race. Ridiculously exciting, intense and challenging, it will force you to release your ‘inner warrior’ and achieve things you never dreamed you were capable of. Heading to Ras Al Khaimah with terrifying obstacles that boast intimidating names like Claustrophobia, The Beast and Brain Freeze, the 5km and 10km routes see participants scale huge structures, plummet into freezing waters, clamber over enormous walls and take on seriously steep slides. But don’t worry, the main essence is all about team work, letting lose, and helping your fellow warriors do the best they can. The feeling when you finish, exhausted, exhilarated, soaking and covered in sand, is out of the world.
Al Marjan Island, Friday, November 19. From Dhs250.
Expo 2020 Dubai Run
As if the launch of Expo 2020 Dubai wasn’t exciting enough, we now have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to race around the Expo site. The 3km, 5km and 10km routes all pass through the Mobility, Opportunity and Sustainability districts and past some of the beautiful and striking pavilions. However, don’t let the stunning, out-of-this-world architecture distract you from smashing your predicted time. All participants receive a free Expo pass for race day, so you can always get there early and have a proper look around beforehand. It’s guaranteed to be the one of the most awe-inspiring runs you’ve ever done.
Friday, November 19, from 7am. Dhs50.
ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon
Looping the glorious Corniche, Qasr Al Hosn, Emirates Palace, Etihad Towers and beyond, this picturesque marathon takes in some of the most iconic sites in Abu Dhabi. A must for all UAE runners, there’s also 10km, 5km and 2.5km fun run routes, plus a marathon relay for teams of two. A feel-good, community event full of positive vibes, the cool Nike finishers’ t-shirt further adds to the bragging rights. Plus, if you don’t know where to start with training, you can always join in with the free practice sessions at TrainYAS. Perfect for keeping yourself accountable, they’ll ensure you’re feeling ready for race day.
Friday, November 26, 2021. From AED 75 (5km) to AED 550 (marathon relay).
Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon
Renowned as the fastest half marathon in the world, the 15th edition of this much-loved race is set to be the biggest yet. Taking in the stunning mountainous landscape of this wild and wonderful emirate, the family-friendly event features a half marathon, half marathon relay, 5km and a 1km fun run. Plus, if you’re travelling from other emirates, it presents the perfect excuse for an active and nature-infused weekend staycay.
Friday, February 18, 2022. Price tbc.
Harriet Shephard is an Abu Dhabi-based copywriter and freelance journalist with a particular focus on fitness, travel and lifestyle, which, along with good food, also happen to be her main passions when she's not typing away at her laptop.