A triathlon, but not as you know it. Taking place this week, the Dubai Desert Triathlon is introducing endurance horse racing to the long-distance challenge. Benita Adesuyan finds out if the new event can stay the course.
Triathlon is seen as one of the ultimate fitness challenges – testing endurance, strength as well as mental fortitude over three different disciplines. With the number of swim, cycle and run races in Dubai increasing and more participants signing up to push their physical barriers, how can organisers offer something different? One event, the Dubai Desert Triathlon on Saturday April 19 aims to combine physical challenge with uniquely Emirati sport-endurance horse riding.
Donal Kilalea of the Dubai Sports Council explains that this new type of race, born in the emirate, epitomises the nation’s love of sport and heritage. ‘We can create something that is uniquely Dubai. Endurance horse riding is predominantly Emirati, triathlon is predominately expat – so we have the opportunity to marry both.’
The Dubai Desert Triathlon involves a 25km endurance horse race across the desert dunes, followed by a 25km road cycling race on Al Qudra track and the last leg is a 5km run over semi-hard desert terrain.
The organisers hope that this will be the first of many desert triathlons. The addition of horse racing makes the event not solely about the athletes’ speed over the course but ensuring that the horse also finishes the race in the best possible condition. Kilalea clarifies the rules. ‘The horse’s condition is determined by a vet check. So the horse’s heart rate is checked and the heartbeat must be a certain level, if it’s above that then the rider is disqualified from that segment of the event because it means the horse has been pushed too hard.’
Because of the horse riding elements, only those with an endurance racing licence from the Emirates Equestrian Federation and a registered horse can take part in the racing segment. But if you don’t have a licensed horse, runners and cyclists can take part as a duathlon or single-discipline event.
Participants can be male or female, with an age limit of 16 upwards. Registration has now closed for entries, but the event will make a good day out for those not taking part.
The triathlon aims to put athletes through their paces in a new way. ‘This is a whole new sport. We’re actually writing the rules and making sure they fit this sport,’ says the organiser, adding he believes the Dubai Desert Triathlon will make its mark on the sporting calendar.
‘The appetite for triathlon and endurance sports have grown extraordinarily. People want to push themselves so the sport just keeps on growing.’
Free. Saturday April 19 from 6am. Dubai International Endurance City, near Bab Al Shams. For more information visit www.register.dubaideserttriathlon.com (04 321 0008).
Where to challenge yourself in the city
Dubai Desert Road Runs
A series of long-distance running events held at The Sevens Stadium that are ideal for the social and the more experienced runner. The race has a 10km race and a 3km fun run.
Dhs50 for 3km fun run, Dhs85 for 10km race. Saturday April 19 and Friday June 12, from 7am. The Sevens Stadium, Dubai-Al Ain Road (E66), www.premieronline.com (055 889 4568).
This group, affiliated with Wolfi’s Bike Shop, holds regular group cycle rides in Nad Al Sheba on Fridays. Better suited to very fit cyclists, the group starts at Nad Al Sheba Cycle Park at 6am, and covers distances of up to 120km.
Free. Nad Al Sheba Cycle Track, meet at the car park in the cycle park, www.dubairoadsters.com (04 339 4453).
Desert horse riding at Al Sahra
Learn how to ride in the desert at the Al Sahra Desert Resort Equestrian Centre. Here, riders of all abilities get the opportunity to ride in the dunes.
From Dhs275 for a 90 minute horse riding lesson. Al Sahra Desert Resort, off the Dubai-Al Ain Road (E66), www.jaresortshotels.com (04 427 4055).
Al Qudra Cycle Path
If you want to pedal in the desert head to the cycle track at Al Qudra where you can cycle for free on 86km of purpose-built cycling track. The loop takes you past the Bab Al Shams Hotel where you
can make a pit stop for refreshments and photos.
Free. Al Qudra Cycle Path, Al Qudra Road. The path starts near Emirates Road (E611).