Running clubs building community spirit in Gulf for locals and expats

Running clubs building community spirit in Gulf for locals and expats
The ASICS FrontRunner Community has helped support athletes and running clubs across the GCC. (Sherif Ebied)
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Updated 07 June 2023

Running clubs building community spirit in Gulf for locals and expats

Running clubs building community spirit in Gulf for locals and expats
  • June 7 marks Global Running Day, but for many athletes in the GCC, it is part of daily life

“You do not stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.”

This is the paraphrasing of George Bernard Shaw’s famous saying on “playing” and getting old, by Christopher McDougall, from his seminal 2009 book “Born to Run,” about the legendary running tribe, the Tarahumara. It is especially poignant on June 7, which is Global Running Day.

Across the GCC, many runners of all abilities and ages will mark the day in their own way, no doubt with the appropriate hashtags and photos.

But for many others, running is quite literally a way of life, and over the last two decades in particular, running groups and clubs have sprung up across communities from the UAE to Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Nicolas le Roux, who is an established member of Dubai Creek Striders and an ASICS FrontRunner, explains why running clubs have been so successful across the UAE.

“Here in (the) UAE, there is a huge expat community, and being far away from family and friends, makes it even harder to adjust and make new connections,” said the South African. “Being part of a running community allows one to be social around a very common theme which is movement. At Dubai Creek Striders we create a save environment without any barriers (no cost to join or participate) and allow beginners to advance runners to train all over Dubai at various sessions on offer.”

The DCS was established in 1995, and since 2002 has held an annual half marathon which today attracts over 2,000 runners.

“Our annual Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon is the most iconic half marathon and 10 kilometers on the running calendar,” said Le Roux. “This beautiful route meanders over, under and alongside the spectacular Dubai Creek, embracing the sights and sounds of this incredible city.

“It’s a run where the community come together, a race that is organized for runners by runners themselves. It’s a nonprofit event, meaning that all money raised, goes back into making this race an extraordinary experience time in and time out.”

Le Roux calls running clubs an “extension of our communities.”

“It’s where people get to know each other, dealing with disappointments,  celebrating successes and triumphs of what we can overcome. Our running community has no commercial gain, creating a safe, friendly environment to get fit.

“People feel inspired by getting involved and offer their time to volunteer. It is most rewarding being able to do something good that you are passionate about and you see the enjoyment of achievement in others.”

The ASICS FrontRunner Community has been heavily involved in supporting runners in the region, with 60 of its members active participants, leaders, pacers and race organizers across the Gulf.

“It’s a brand that really believes in getting involved in everything that supports our community including sponsoring our race, reducing cost and providing us with (a) world-class technical running shirt for every participant.”

Part of the community is Fuad Naser, the founder of the Dubai-based 5:30 RUN Club.

“Our running club offers a multifaceted and invaluable experience that goes well beyond the act of running,” said the Jordanian-Palestinian. “The motivational environment, social connections, mentorship opportunities, emotional support, and personal development programs all contribute to the growth and transformation of individuals, where they can achieve remarkable results in their physical, mental and emotional well-being.”

Naser has seen firsthand how regular running has impacted people’s lives, bringing positive physical and mental change to these individuals. “Running clubs have brought about profound transformations in the lives of runners, revolutionizing their physical fitness, promoting healthier lifestyles, and enhancing their mental well-being,” he said.

“By fostering a supportive community, facilitating structured training programs, and providing opportunities for personal growth, these clubs have become instrumental in achieving holistic health. The impact reaches far beyond the distance logged, as individuals experience improved physical fitness, adopt healthier habits, and find solace, support, and personal growth within the running community.”

The 5:30 RUN Club welcomes runners — and aspiring runners — of every background, said Naser.

“Our running club is located in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah,” he said. “We believe in fostering an inclusive and supportive environment where individuals of all abilities can come together to enjoy running and improve their fitness.

“Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting out, you’ll find a welcoming community that will encourage and support you in achieving your running goals. Our club offers various training programs and sessions designed to cater to different skill levels.”

Eden Uy, who hails from the Philippines, is the co-founder of the running club 3f Striders, a nonprofit which was established in Dubai in 2014 and now has a branch in Abu Dhabi.

“We offer free coaching on swimming, cycling and running to the community and build connections with people, and with that connection we are able to share our faith and inspire them to get going and move,” she said. “Nothing feels better (than) when you see the members growing and reaching their goals in the sports, from couch to marathon or Ironman. Thanks to those who volunteer and dedicate their time to share their knowledge and skills with the members.”

Uy echoes the words of Le Roux and Naser by saying the running clubs contribute more than just an opportunity to exercise.

“3f Striders participate in community service through coordination with the Philippine consulate, and their social events or community service,” the marine administrative officer said. “Members are also open in sharing ideas and skills in the group as well as business opportunities.”

Omar Al-Filakway, another ASICS FrontRunner, is a coach based in Kuwait, and has built up a strong online fanbase — 304,000 Instagram followers — in recent years. It has allowed him to spread the gospel of running to a wide audience.

“As I lived in the era where there was no social media and currently living (in) the social media era, I can say that in the past there was a difficulty in spreading awareness and education towards running,” he said. “However, today social media has made spreading knowledge and awareness very easy, whether it was through live Instagram, posts, reels, stories, etc.”

“Furthermore, these media messages not only spread in Kuwait and this region, but all over the world, which is a huge benefit because I can reach out to people who are not just close to me.”

As in Dubai and across the GCC, running has grown steadily in his homeland, said Al-Filakway.

“In the recent years, running has become a very popular activity in Kuwait and there has been an increase in the number of runners within the community and it has become a big responsibility for us as experts and professionals in the field of running to spread awareness and knowledge about this sport in a safe and correct manner. Seeing the running community grow in Kuwait makes me very happy.”

Al-Filakway sees that, for some local athletes, running offers wider aspirations.

“To become a professional runner is the right for every runner or fitness fan and to become competitive,” he said. “There are lifestyle runners who have genetic dispositions that allow them to become professional provided that they receive the correct training.”

For Al-Filakway, running, as much as it attracts expatriate communities across the Gulf, also serves to break down barriers for the local populations.

“Being in a Gulf, Arabic, Muslim country, we do face some difficulties in the sport of running, especially when it comes to women and the way (they) dress and specifically for running in public areas,” he said.

“However, in more recent years and after the spread of the sport of running and knowledge and education towards it, and after the increase in the number of women who have taken on the sport … and events and races, there has been more confidence for women to practice this sport in public areas without being afraid. As for men, we never faced any difficulties.”

Perhaps it is fitting to end with another quote from McDougall: “The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other … but to be with each other.”

Newcastle United sponsor Sela stages drone show above St. James’ Park to celebrate European football returning to city

Front-of-shirt sponsor celebrates return of European nights by lighting up the skies. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Front-of-shirt sponsor celebrates return of European nights by lighting up the skies. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Updated 22 min 37 sec ago

Newcastle United sponsor Sela stages drone show above St. James’ Park to celebrate European football returning to city

Front-of-shirt sponsor celebrates return of European nights by lighting up the skies. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
  • The drone show is part of Sela’s promise to create special experiences for Newcastle United fans and the wider community through its partnership with the club

Sela, the front-of-shirt sponsor of Newcastle United, lit up the sky above Newcastle upon Tyne on Tuesday night with a spectacular football-themed drone show to celebrate the return of top-level European football to St. James’ Park after a 20-year break.

Newcastle United will play French champions Paris Saint Germain on Wednesday night, and live events and entertainment company Sela wanted to give fans a surprise as part of the build-up to the game.

The eight-minute drone show saw Newcastle United’s iconic mascot — the magpie — soar across the skies before transitioning into the famous black and white team shirts adorned with the names of England defender Kieran Trippier, Brazilian international Bruno Guimaraes and Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali.

After recreating the club emblem in the night sky, the drones formed to make a statement about Newcastle’s return to the biggest stage in club football, following their top-four finish in the Premier League: “We’re Back.” The show ended with Sela’s “spectacular everyday” tagline that is seen around St. James’ Park on matchdays.

Sela, who became a primary partner of Newcastle United in June, is in the business of creating spectacular experiences. It has welcomed more than 40 million visitors to the range of sports, leisure, culture, retail, and hospitality events and destinations within its portfolio — from staging WWE in the Jeddah Superdome to operating the Via Riyadh luxury multipurpose venue.

The drone show is part of Sela’s promise to create special experiences for Newcastle United fans and the wider community through its partnership with the club.

“We wanted to create a little surprise for fans to celebrate the return of the biggest nights in European football to St. James’ Park,” said Ibrahim Mohtaseb, senior vice president of Sela.

“The fans, the club and the players deserve these special moments and I hope we’ve added to what will be an unforgettable occasion for everyone who loves Newcastle United and this city.

“Creating spectacular experiences is at the heart of what Sela does every day as a company and we’re looking forward to contributing to more memories over the course of this landmark season.”

Keith Gillespie, the former Newcastle United star, said: “There’s an incredible buzz around Newcastle right now, fueled by the club’s success last season and now the return of European football with a huge game against Paris Saint Germain.

“It’s all very reminiscent of the late 1990s and those unforgettable nights against giants like Barcelona that I was fortunate enough to be involved in,” he said.

“Sela’s spectacular drone show really adds to this electric atmosphere and I know the fans will be thrilled by what they witnessed in the skies above the stadium.” 

India and Pakistan on track for cricket gold-medal showdown at Asian Games

India and Pakistan on track for cricket gold-medal showdown at Asian Games
Updated 03 October 2023

India and Pakistan on track for cricket gold-medal showdown at Asian Games

India and Pakistan on track for cricket gold-medal showdown at Asian Games
  • Match between Pakistan and India will be influential as Olympic Committee ponders cricket being added to 2028 Los Angeles Olympics
  • The final on Saturday could be overshadowed by the start of the Cricket World Cup in India, which opens on Thursday

HANGZHOU, China: India and Pakistan moved closer to a potential Asian Games showdown for the gold medal in cricket after picking up victories on Tuesday in the quarterfinals.
Any match between Pakistan and India draws a massive television audience and will be influential as the International Olympic Committee ponders cricket being added to the program for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
The final on Saturday, however, could be overshadowed by the start of the Cricket World Cup in India, which opens on Thursday.
The IOC has given no clear timetable when a decision about cricket will be made.
Cricket appeared in the Olympics for the only time at the 1900 Paris Games.
India managed a 23-run victory over Nepal on Tuesday. Yashasvi Jaiswal scored a century from 49 deliveries to help India reach 202-4 from its allotted 20 overs after winning the toss and electing to bat.
“I’m really proud and really happy and grateful,” Jaiwsal said of getting the century. “It was a great feeling. It’s a proud moment whenever you represent your country, especially India. I’m just so glad and happy to represent India and proud of myself for going out there to express myself and my game.”
Nepal was restricted to 179-9 in reply, with Avesh Khan and Ravi Bishnoi each taking three wickets for India.
Pakistan put up a 68-run victory over Hong Kong in another quarterfinal match. Pakistan reached 160-10 and Hong Kong was limited to 92-10.


Everywhere you look, China dominates. China won nine of 12 medals in canoe sprint, which wrapped up on Tuesday. This is typical of the way the Asian Games host finds athletes to excel across a vast array of Olympic sports.
Canoe sprint athletes were also primed after appearing in the sport’s world championships in August in Duisburg, Germany, which served as the main qualification event for next year’s Paris Olympics.
“All four of us are very happy because we have been working hard for a long time,” said Zhang Dong, a member of the winning 500-meter men’s kayak four team.
“Including qualifying for the Olympics at the world championships, I really feel it’s not easy,” Zhang added. “We have already been preparing for two years, just to qualify for the Olympics, and to win the gold medal at this Asian Games, I’m so happy.”


Three-time Olympic medalist Olga Zabelinskaya of Uzbekistan won the women’s time trial in 24 minutes, 35.99 seconds. Zabelinskaya was a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and won two bronze medals at the 2012 London Games.
The silver medal in the 20-kilometer race went to Eri Yonamine of Japan, who was 59.60 seconds behind. Rinata Sultanova of Kazakstan took bronze.
Alexey Lutsenko of Kazakhstan won the men’s race in 48:05.75. Xue Ming and China took silver and Vincent Lau Wan Yau of Hong Kong won bronze.

EA FC 24: What are Ronaldo, Neymar, Benzema’s Saudi Pro League teams like to play with?

EA FC 24: What are Ronaldo, Neymar, Benzema’s Saudi Pro League teams like to play with?
Updated 03 October 2023

EA FC 24: What are Ronaldo, Neymar, Benzema’s Saudi Pro League teams like to play with?

EA FC 24: What are Ronaldo, Neymar, Benzema’s Saudi Pro League teams like to play with?
  • Arab News slides into latest football game from EA Sports to see how SPL represented

RIYADH: “EA FC 24” is the new name for EA Sports’ dominant football game. Once known as “FIFA,” the series developer and publisher recently split with world football’s governing body.

The move has ushered in a new era for fans who may be pleased to know that the on-pitch action is slicker while still providing a roller coaster of emotion, similar to the real thing.

One of the reasons EA Sports ended its 30-year association with FIFA was to explore new opportunities and partnerships that were once a conflict of interest.

The first instalment feels like a familiar pair of football boots – a safe addition with which players will instantly feel comfortable.

Dramatic changes are likely being kept in the locker room for future editions, as development is tight on annually released video games. So, what, if any, changes have appeared for the teams in the Saudi Pro League?

The good

All 18 SPL teams from the current 2023-24 season are included in “EA FC 24.” From title holders Al-Ittihad to newly promoted Al-Riyadh and all those in between.

The sudden influx of international stars that gave transfer expert Fabrizio Romano sleepless nights is up to date. The likes of Sadio Mane (Al-Nassr), Neymar (Al-Hilal), and Karim Benzema (Al-Ittihad) line up for their new sides and, in doing so, lift the overall star rating and playability of each side.

So, fans of the clubs that made big moves in the summer can play as their favorite team online without fear of being hammered each time.

It is also great to see the Roshn Saudi League idents for the TV-style coverage before, during, and after the games, creating another layer of authenticity.

Saudi football fans may also be pleased to note that many more people use SPL teams online this year. By setting the Seasons or Co-Op settings to fit a favorite club, a similar match-up can quickly be found.

Previously, in “FIFA,” players could sit in an online lobby for what felt like hours and would rarely find an equal matchup for Damac or similar. Opening up the restrictions would inevitably lead to one-sided games against Manchester City, PSG, and Real Madrid on repeat.

There is also a big matchday feel to local derbies, too. EA Sports has added a little more drama to the likes of Al-Nasser versus Al-Hilal with more background on the long-lasting rivalry that comes through the pre-game presentation and in-game commentary.

The not-so-good

There are only two official stadiums from the SPL in “EA FC 24” — the faithfully recreated King Abdullah Sports City and King Fahd Stadium.

The eagle-eyed will notice these are the same stadia featured in last year’s “FIFA 23.”

Although fans may be disappointed, the approach is not limited to the Saudi teams.

For example, the Dutch Eredivisie only has Ajax and PSV, and Portugal’s Liga comes with FC Porto and Benfica official stadiums. Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami stadium is not even in the game.

Inside the stadiums, as the cameras pan the crowds or pitchside crew and security, there is not much Arab representation. In fact, players will not find any traditional dress anywhere in the grounds. It may seem like a minor issue for a sports game, but it matters.

The game currently uses the same animated crowd as it does in every other stadium and switches the football shirts to match.

You can forgive EA Sports for using the likenesses of the licensed commentary and pundit teams they use in the game’s EA TV presentation, such as Stewart Robson and Derek Rae. But finding a fan in the stadium sporting a thobe or abaya is currently impossible and feels like a missed opportunity.

Stadium chants are also off-target. When Cristiano Ronaldo scores for Al-Nassr, the home crowd erupts into a baffling rendition of Manchester United fans’ “Viva Ronaldo.”

The development of “EA FC 24” probably did not leave much time for EA Sports to capture the atmosphere, but hopefully things will be more accurate for the Saudi matchday feel next season.

Lastly, “EA FC 24” does not have all the official kits. Again, this is not an issue solely aimed at the SPL, as other league teams can be seen playing in off-brand outfits. But users are unlikely to be happy if they were looking forward to playing with Al-Okhdood in their licensed shirts.

It is a bit of a mixed bag regarding SPL representation in “EA FC 24.”

It is great to see the teams have been given a statistics boost to reflect the 2023 summer transfers, and playing with them online is fun and a break from using the usual suspects.

EA Sports will build on the entire experience for next season. The explosion of the SPL popularity likely caught them off guard, as it did with most, which is why it currently feels slightly odd. But with the world’s gaze fixed on the league, it is hard to ignore it now.

More than anything, it would be nice to see some distinctive Arab representation around “EA FC 25.”

Rabdan Cycling Team partners with Arada ahead of new season

Rabdan Cycling Team partners with Arada ahead of new season
Updated 03 October 2023

Rabdan Cycling Team partners with Arada ahead of new season

Rabdan Cycling Team partners with Arada ahead of new season
  • Sponsorship to cover key costs for Abu Dhabi’s first amateur cycling team, including monthly training at Masaar Track in Sharjah

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi’s first-ever amateur cycling team, Rabdan, has partnered with property developer Arada ahead of the 2023-2024 racing season.

Founded in 2016, Rabdan Cycling Team consists of 10 core racing members and 20 community riders, all of whom are Emirati. The team was named after the first horse of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the late president of the UAE. It was chosen by Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, national security advisor of the UAE.

As well as being one of the first amateur teams in the UAE, Rabdan Cycling Team is also one of the most successful, having won the UAE Vice President’s Cup, the Seih Al-Salam Race and other major championships locally.

Arada’s support will enable Rabdan Cycling Team to register for local races, insure bikes, pay for team kit, and allow members to attend a training camp in Italy. In addition, Rabdan will also train at the new Masaar Track facility in Sharjah, which has been developed by Arada, on a monthly basis during the new season. The first session took place on Thursday Sept. 28.

Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, group CEO of Arada, said: “Our partnership with Rabdan underlines our commitment to healthy, active living, which we promote in all our communities. We look forward to welcoming Rabdan Cycling Team to Masaar Track, where they will be able to train in a professional, welcoming and natural environment.”

Dr. Mohammed Al-Eissaee, co-leader of Rabdan Cycling Team, said: “This partnership with Arada will enable us to improve our performance, take part in more races both here in the UAE and internationally, and achieve even better race results. We’re also looking forward to testing out the new circuit at Masaar, which is a fantastic new facility for the sport here in the UAE.”

Masaar Track consists of a 6.6-km looped professional circuit that runs through the woodland on the outskirts of the Masaar community, in the up-and-coming Al-Suyoh district of New Sharjah.

The track is one of a number of entertainment, leisure and sporting facilities within the Masaar master plan, which contains 3,000 villas and townhouses and more than 50,000 trees. The first homes at Masaar will be completed at the end of the year.

Cricket superstar Virat Kohli launches Blue Rising to compete in new electric powerboating series

Cricket superstar Virat Kohli launches Blue Rising to compete in new electric powerboating series
Updated 03 October 2023

Cricket superstar Virat Kohli launches Blue Rising to compete in new electric powerboating series

Cricket superstar Virat Kohli launches Blue Rising to compete in new electric powerboating series
  • The Blue Rising team will compete against the electric RaceBird outfits announced by Tom Brady, Rafael Nadal, Steve Aoki, Didier Drogba, Sergio Perez
  • Former Indian cricket captain spearheads the team in the UIM E1 World Championship in partnership with UAE-based sports tech entrepreneur Adi K. Mishra

DUBAI: The latest team to join the UIM E1 World Championship, the first all-electric powerboating series, will have a duo of high-profile principals at the helm of The Blue Rising Team in cricket superstar Virat Kohli and sports technology entrepreneur Adi K. Mishra.

Former captain of the Indian cricket team and ICC Cricketer of the Year in 2017 and 2018, Kohli is regarded as one of the game’s greatest batsmen, and boasts an Instagram following of 260 million.

“I want to inspire people to have a competitive spirit and to raise awareness about sustainability issues, something I am becoming more and more passionate about as we build a family,” Kohli said. “I can’t wait to cheer for our male and female pilots racing for our team. I’m looking forward to lining up against the likes of Tom Brady, Rafa Nadal, Sergio Perez, Steve Aoki and Didier Drogba — we’re going electric, we’re going flying over the water and we’re going to try to win it for The Blue Rising.”

The Blue Rising Team name was chosen to draw attention to marine conservation and the threat posed by rising sea levels around the world, and also as a celebration of the color at the heart of India’s sports teams.

Kohli will be supported by leading entrepreneur and League Sports Co. Founder and CEO Adi K. Mishra. The LSC is a sports technology holding company that owns and operates sports teams, gaming businesses, and brands including the World Bowling League.

“We are excited to partner with one of the best athletes of our generation and arguably one of the best batsmen in the history of cricket,” said Mishra. “It has also been a pleasure to work alongside Bunty Sajdeh, CEO of Cornerstone Sport & Entertainment, who has played a key role.

“And the firm has already brought insightful conversations with brands that share our combined values with the UIM E1 World Championship of sustainability and gender inclusion. We are keen to explore partnerships with the UIM E1 World Championship and some of the other team owners with the World Bowling League in order to elevate both sports.”

The inaugural season, scheduled to start in February 2024, will see up to 10 teams and 20 mixed-gender pilots racing on the water in iconic cities around the world, with the US due to host a race in season two.

Rodi Basso, co-founder and CEO of the championship, said: “The start line for the first season of the UIM E1 World Championship is filling up fast, and our seventh team is a big one for us. Virat Kohli’s passion for sustainability, combined with Adi’s ability to drive success, will make The Blue Rising Team a force to be reckoned with on the water.”

Meanwhile Alejandro Agag, co-founder and chairman of the UIM E1 World Championship — and also chairman of the one-seater electric series Formula E — revealed his delight at announcing another “fantastic team” to the new sport.

“Spearheaded by cricket superstar Virat Kohli, The Blue Rising Team says it all in their name,” he said. “No doubt on the water, their sportsmanship will allow their team to thrive and guide their team to success. Off the water, their strength in championing sport with purpose is something we want to elevate and by joining forces together especially with our diverse fan base, I believe we can inspire and educate future generations. The race is on and I cannot wait for the first race of the UIM E1 World Championship in Jeddah next year.”