By: Ashok Purohit

Saudi Arabia’s long-distance runner Abdullah al Joud retained the men’s title at the second edition of the 2015 Al Amerat Challenge Race after finishing in 29m55s in the 9km event at the Al Amerat-Bausher mountain road on Saturday.

He was closely followed by Marwa Dickson, Tanzania’s top Olympic men’s long-distance runner, who finished runner-up in 30m08s. Morocco’s Anwar al Qoz was third with a time of 30m.40s.

In the women’s category, the star attraction of the meet, Tizita Bogale, a former world junior 1,500m champion from Ethiopia, finished third. Top Kenyan runner Naomi Jepkosgei Maiyo clocked 34m45s to take the crown, while her countrymate Millicent Kuria was runner-up with a time of 35m06s. Tizita clocked 37m35s. Besides the 9km run for professional athletes, there was a 9km competition for U17 boys and girls, while a 1.8km fun race also attracted healthy participation.

Rashid al Kindi, executive director of Excellence Performance, the organiser of the race, said the race for Oman’s clubs had to be scrapped due to poor response from the clubs.

Only Al Ittihad, Khasab and Jaalan had registered for the clubs’ race, rued Kindi.

“We needed at least 12 clubs for the event to go ahead. So we decided to organise a race for the U17s instead and we awarded cash prizes to the top four finishers in the boys’ and girls’ categories,” said Kindi.

He added, “Overall, it was a great success. We had a total of 1,080 participants in both the categories – main 9km event and 1.8km fun race – which is much higher than last year’s figure of 580. The international recognition of this race from the Association of International Marathons & Distance Races (AIMS) last October has helped us attract a good number of athletes from eastern Africa and central Europe.”

The race began from Muscat Expressway, near Muscat Grand Mall, and took the athletes up the winding and steep Al Amerat road and back to the starting point.

More than 400 athletes competed for the main 9km event for men and women.

Kindi said that Joud’s 29m55s will be considered as the official benchmark time for the Al Amerat-Bausher course. The Saudi Arabian had clocked 30m17.5s in last year’s edition.

H E Sheikh Rashad al Hinai, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Sports Affairs, was the chief guest at the event and presented the awards to the winners.

Kindi said, “After getting AIMS recognition, this is our first event and it has proved to be a success. We hope to bring in more world-class athletes in the future and make Oman one of the top global destinations for this unique 9km road race.”

The Al Amerat Challenge, the region’s lone 9km race, is only the second race from the region to be part of the AIMS, after the Ras al Khaimah Half Marathon in UAE.

The event carried a total prize money of US$26,000, with Joud and Naomi collecting US$4,000 each for their wins.

Results: 9km men: 1 Abdullah al Joud (Saudi Arabia) 29m55s, 2 Marwa Dickson (Tanzania) 30m08s, 3 Anwar al Qoz (Morocco) 30m40s, 4 Paul Nduru (Kenya) 31m25s, 5 Ibrahim al Suleimani (Morocco) 32m24s.

9km women: 1 Naomi Jepkogsei (Kenya) 34m45s, 2 Millicent Kuria (Kenya) 35m06s, 3 Tizita Bogale (Ethiopia) 37m35s, 4 Belinesh Yami (Ethiopia) 38m46s, 5 Asta Parker (Iceland) 42m36s.

U17 boys: 1 Keertan Sweehialy (India) 44m39s, 2 Motaz al Hassani (Oman) 44m58s, 3 Mahmood al Mufaraji (Oman) 46m47s, 4 Ammar al Khanjari (Oman) 47m29s.

U17 girls: 1 Nirali Patel (India) 1h05m45s, 2 Saloni Harish (India) 1h09m05s, 3 Shreya Munaugal (India) 1h09m10s, 4 Bernice Thambi Raja (India) 1h12m41s.

SOURCE: Muscat Daily