Best foot forward

Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2016   English | العربية  

By Yara Boraie

This month, a Dubai athlete is preparing to run a staggering 630km across the seven emirates in just seven days to raise awareness for those with special needs. He talks to OL about his record-breaking challenge

While the rest of us are preparing for the festivities to come, Jalal Jamal Bin Thaneya – an Emirati charitable athlete from Dubai who currently works as a Quality and Strategy Supervisor in Dubai Ports World – is training to run 630km across the UAE in just one week, in a bid to raise awareness and educate people about those with special needs.

One small step for man

Starting at the Al Ghuwaifat border post on 19 December, Bin Thaneya’s run through the UAE desert and mountains ends at the Fujairah coastline, moving through the seven emirates of the country, and is expected to take seven days.

This isn’t the first charitable initiative Bin Thaneya has embarked on, but it is one he must complete within just a week as he is aiming to make history as well – under the supervision of the Guinness World Records – by becoming the fastest man to cross the UAE on foot.

His campaign for special needs started a decade ago during his time at university when he took up various activities to raise awareness for the cause. The first charitable sport he initiated was walking across the seven emirates.

“The difference between then and now is that I’ll be running, aiming to finish within seven days, as oppose to the two weeks it took me initially.”

Since his university days, he has climbed the stairs of 100 skyscrapers across Dubai, walked 2,000km from Abu Dhabi to Mecca, Saudi Arabia (backed on Twitter by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai), cycled across the six Gulf States.

This ultra-marathon though, his sixth gig, is going to be Bin Thaneya’s epic finale.

“I’ve trekked my way through a variety of challenges to raise funds and awareness for charitable organisations across the country, such as the Dubai Autism Centre and the Rashid Centre for the Disabled,” said Bin Thaneya.

“People would often assume it’s personal; that I know a friend or I’m related to someone with special needs, but I did it simply because I care – and I want the rest of the UAE to care too.”

His participation in numerous gruelling walkathons and marathons is nothing short of astounding, but being a humble man, Bin Thaneya believes that “anyone and everyone can do it.”

“But what you need to be is resourceful, disciplined, and have a good plan. Ambition and patience will drive you more so than expertise,” he said.

The route for his upcoming run was chosen by the team at Guinness World Records, who Bin Thaneya approached wanting to set a world record.

“I’ve worked out the calculations and mapping with the Guinness team so I have to run 90 to 100km a day. There will be a car stationed every 5km though to provide me with enough food and water to sustain and hydrate me. I will also be sleeping in the car.”

His undertaking has received many shouts of encouragement and calls of support from government and police officials.

"This alone serves as all the incentive I need,” Bin Thaneya said.
‘I do it simply because I care – and I want the rest of the UAE to care too’

Overcoming adversity

“Walking, jogging, and running 18 hours a day across the country is no small feat,” said Bin Thaneya, adding: “However there are several other challenging aspects to it, like the traffic stalling and wasting time you can’t afford to lose; the weather condition which may cause damage to my technology; and directions - you don’t want to take a wrong turn when you could be taking a break.”

Since he’s going on survival mode for a whole week on the road, not having access to modern facilities and the everyday luxuries is yet another challenge Bin Thaneya will be facing, especially when nature calls. There’s also the tension of having the Guinness team refereeing him 24/7.

Discipline is key

Bin Thaneya reiterates the importance of discipline as he has trained himself to go to sleep at 10pm and wake up at 5am. “I may miss out on many family gatherings and friends’ hangouts, but it’s easy to deal with if you focus on your end goal.”

He has been training for the past six months – once or twice a day before and after work – but is careful to not overwork himself.

“I can’t run for 100km a day and then go back to the standard routine; the human body can only take so much,” said the 30-year-old athlete, “therefore my routine needs to be consistent.”

His workout sessions consist of running 5km six days a week on Kite Beach, Dubai, as well as a core-strengthening powerwalk for 10km while carrying a weight of 20 to 25kg in a rucksack.

His diet is engineered to be as organic as possible, featuring a good ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fibres – giving him more energy for the long haul minus the feeling of being bloated.

“Before any tedious exercise, you have to eat something that’s high in carbs and sodium because you’re bound to sweat a lot. However, during the actual run, I will eat every hour in a reasonably small amount – a piece of bread or some coconut water for instance – because once I start, there’s no stopping until I’ve reached my next checkpoint,” he explained.

Leading by example

“I don’t have plans for anymore solo treks,” said Bin Thaneya, citing economic reasons for one, but he is still open to group work.

“And I’d like to let my work speak for itself if anyone is interested.”

His hopes for the future also include inspiring others, and shining a light on the UAE community’s potential to accomplish many great things, and his philosophy revolves around breaking any barriers.

“Let your life be an adventure; don’t follow a path just because it was given to you. Many people have the capabilities and the skills, but they don’t seek the opportunity.”

With 18 days to go until his record-breaking journey, the runner’s closing words were: “There’s no giving up – this is a commitment I have to fulfil.”
To find out how Jalal Jamal Bin Thaneya’s Guinness attempt went, keep an eye on our Facebook page!
Print This Page
Email a Friend
Contact the Editor