The Sand Pit’s Firas Masri interview

We speak to The Sand Pit co-founder Firas Masri as it comes to Dubai

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With new obstacle run The Sand Pit taking place next month, Benita Adesuyan quizzes its co-founder Firas Masri on what makes this run unique and what it has in store for the plucky athletes who take it on.

Obstacle races are the new black. The city’s athletes and weekend fitness warriors no longer seem content to just run long distances or sign up for a triathlon. They want to climb ropes, crawl through pipes and plunge into pools of water as well.

The new kid on the obstacle race block is The Sand Pit, a 10km non-timed run founded and organised by two friends who are passionate about sport, fitness and pushing physical boundaries. The first event takes place on Friday April 17, but with a second event already confirmed for Friday November 6, they’re confident that the obstacle race trend is set to stay for another season. We spoke to Firas Masri, one half of the partnership behind The Sand Pit, to find out about what the run has to offer.

Why did you want to set up yet another obstacle run in Dubai?
These runs are not unique globally, but here in Dubai they are focused on competition and setting times, and are not so much about actually having fun and enjoying the challenge. I value self-improvement and pushing yourself. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to do something challenging and have a good time.

Why do you think obstacle courses are so popular?
I’m a coach and I know this might not be a popular opinion, but running in a straight line is boring. For me, completing a half marathon doesn’t appeal. It’s not that I can’t, it’s just that I don’t want to enough. Runs with obstacles change the whole dynamic of the event. There is the teamwork element and it’s more fun than just running.

How does The Sand Pit differ to some of the challenges that have been hosted recently?
Some events list that they have dozens of obstacles, but when you get onto it, it’s like running in a zigzag. That’s not an obstacle run. We have 15 real obstacles.

What’s challenging, and what’s fun about The Sand Pit?
Any 10km run in the desert with tough obstacles to tackle is going to be challenging. We have the ‘Wally’ obstacle, which is a series of walls challengers will need help to get up. This obstacle will be extremely difficult to complete alone. Challengers will need to work as a team. But a lot of the obstacles are fun, too. For example there is one where challengers will have to jump into a pool of water from a four-metre-high platform. The Sand Pit is much less about winning or losing and more about having fun with your friends and family. After the event we’ll have a DJ playing for the crowd, a number of food trucks serving, and other entertainment, too.

Are there any prizes?
Yes, but not for the fastest times. The awards are for the best dressed teams and individuals. For the best jump award in the ‘Into the Pit’ event, we take photos of the teams before they start, when they’re clean, and then afterwards. The muddiest team wins a prize. We also have a best social media prize for those interacting with us and our partners.

Do you still need to be very fit to take part?
If you’re in good running shape you’ll be fine. The course will take two hours if you walk it, so you don’t actually have to run if you don’t want to. At least a jog will be fine. Some of the obstacles require upper body strength, and swimming is required for one, but if you can’t swim you can go around it. Body Language is the official gym of The Sand Pit race and every week we put out a video to help participants get into better shape.

You already have a date confirmed for part two of the race in November. What makes you so sure that in spite of all the competition, this event will be successful enough to be held again?
We already have six partners confirmed and Al Barari has allowed us to use the space again. And looking at social media ahead of the event, we already have more engagement than the Reebok Spartan Race has. I think since this event is not a race, people are responding to it more and more.
Dhs310 per person before March 14, Dhs360 until April 9. Race day April 17, Al Barari, www.thesandpitrun.com (04 452 6128).

More obstacle courses to sign up for now

Wadi Adventure Race 9
Course difficulty: Hard
A consistently popular event, this will be the last Wadi Adventure challenge of the year. The course is 10km over 28 obstacles.
Dhs225. Registration closes April 19. Race day April 25, 9am. Al Ain, www.premieronline.com (03 781 8422).

Desert Warrior Challenge
Course difficulty: Varied
This 10km run offers a wide range of challenging obstacles over four courses, each to suit the different levels of fitness from serious athletes to juniors.
From Dhs400. Race day April 24, 7am. Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, www.desertwarriorchallenge.com (no number).

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