The Al Amerat Challenge Race will be Oman’s first road race to receive international recognition after a top official of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) gave the thumbs-up to the 9km annual event that began earlier this year.

Addressing mediapersons at the Oman Olympic Committee on Sunday, Hugh Jones, the secretary of the AIMS, said, “The Amerat Challenge will perhaps be a rare 9km road race to be part of our international calendar. It meets all the requirements to be included in the AIMS schedule. We are happy to bring it into our fold.”

The first edition of the Amerat Challenge, which was held on February 15 this year, featured a total of 560 participants from 23 nations. Abdullah al Jood of Saudi Arabia and Sion G of The Netherlands had won the men’s and women’s events, respectively. The second edition of the race will be held on February 14 next year.

Jones said, “The formal announcement of the Amerat Challenge being incorporated into the AIMS calendar will be made once the submission of membership fees is over. The race course is quite a challenging one. It offers a unique terrain over a distance of 9km.”

Jones added that the ‘goal of the AIMS is to promote distance-running all over the world and work closely with the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF)’. The AIMS was established in 1982 and it is a member-based organisation of over 350 of the world’s leading distance races from over 100 countries and territories, including the Boston and London Marathons. Jones explained that there are three key requirements for a race to be a member of the AIMS.

“The event should have been held at least once before seeking recognition, the national athletics association should give it a go-ahead and, finally, the measurement of the course needs to be verified. The Amerat Challenge has met all three requirements and I hope it attracts more runners from across the world,” he said.

“Having done a recce of the course, I can say that it is a tough race with its winding, uphill and downhill course. It will certainly appeal to road runners, who seek new destinations and some adventure. Oman offers them both,” Jones added. The Amerat Challenge is only the second race from the region to be part of the AIMS, after the Ras al Khaimah Half Marathon in UAE.

Obaid al Manwari, an Oman Athletics Association (OAA) board member, assured all support for the annual race and said it was a ‘proud moment’ to see the Amerat Challenge earn international recognition. Also present at Sunday’s press event were Ahmed al Hajri, the marketing manager of the Amerat Challenge, and former long-distance runner and OAA board member Hamood al Hashmi, the technical consultant for the race. The event, which carries a prize money of RO10,000, is open to men and women from all age groups.

Also, Jones said, “We have a popular quarterly magazine, Distance Running, which reaches nearly 400,000 athletes and road race organisations across the world. The magazine is distributed free to runners during races and at marathon exhibitions as well.” He added that once a race becomes an AIMS event, it is put out on the official website of the AIMS.

Jones: First British man to win London Marathon

Hugh Jones, the AIMS secretary, was the first British athlete to win the London Marathon, in 1982, finishing in a time of 2h09m24s. It remained his personal best. A former Olympian, Jones finished 12th in the men’s marathon event of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, US with a time of 2h13m57s. He was also runner-up to Joseph Nzau in the Chicago Marathon, a year later.

In 1983, Jones won the Stockholm Marathon with a time of 2h11m37s, which is still the event record and repeated his victory in 1992 with 2h15m58s. The 59 year old Jones took over as AIMS secretary in 1996 and is also the editor of the AIMS magazine Distance Running, which he started in 2000.