RIYADH: Runners from around the world and all walks of life took part in the 2023 Riyadh Marathon on Friday, with Alemu Mesert Abebayehu from Ethiopia and Jouaher Samir from Morocco winning the women’s and men’s races respectively.
Alongside professional athletes, beginners and children also took part in the races. The sports event included a marathon, half-marathon, 10km race and 4km family fun run. Winners received prize money totalling SR1 million ($266,666).
The marathon course included some of Riyadh’s most remarkable landmarks, starting with Mrsool Park, the stadium where international footballer Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Al-Nassr FC. The route continued through Flag Square and the Digital City.
Saudi runner Mohammed Shaween finished 10th, but broke the Saudi record for chip time in the marathon by completing the race in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 6 seconds.
“Today I had the opportunity to break the Saudi record, which hadn’t been broken for over 20 years. It was an abandoned sport, but the Riyadh Marathon has revived it,” Shaween said.
President of the Sports for All Federation, Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al-Saud, handed trophies to the male winners on stage, while Prince Nawaf bin Mohammed Al-Saud gave the female winners their trophies.
Winners of each race were split into two groups based on gender, consisting of six winners per race with prizes of $30,000, $20,000, and $10,000.
Jouaher Samir from Morocco completed the marathon in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 41 seconds to win the men’s event.
“It was a beautiful race, a very difficult two-lap track. The weather was no help at all, otherwise my time would have been faster,” Samir said.
“But my performance improved the last 20km. I was up there without any competition in those last meters, and I won. I thank God for this victory. I would like to thank the organizers and all my friends who helped me train. Thank you, everyone.”
Female winner Alemu Mesert Abebayehu from Ethiopia completed the race with a chip time of 2 hours, 24 minutes and 29 seconds.
Many competitors trained for months in order to cope with the demands of the race.
Hani Alharbi, a fitness instructor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, competed in the 21km race after training for four months.
“This is the 10th time I have done the half-marathon — I am chasing marathons,” he said.
Roy Reinke, a student at Marquette University in the US, who was previously injured and unable to run for a year, trained by running over 60km every week.
Reinke said that he was excited to race in the Kingdom after competing in his homeland, where he often runs in temperatures as low as minus 5 C.
Nurse Hammam Essa said that the event was his first competitive race.
“I’m not an athlete, but it’s a challenge for me because one of my goals for this year is to lose weight, so that’s a good thing to start with.”
Before the event, SFA posted four specialized training programs for each of the distances on its website, offering tips and tricks to help participants prepare for the races.
Prince Khaled said that the organization had achieved its target of 15,000 participants for this year’s marathon.
Last year, a study showed that the Kingdom has seen an increase of 48.2 percent in physical activity, which falls in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 Quality of Life objectives, which the SFA supports through events such as the marathon.