2019 Oman By UTMB – For Extremely Experienced to Friendly Adventure Runners

Oman by UTMB. Picture credit: Franck Oddoux

Want a guaranteed entry to 2020 UTMB Mont Blanc race without waiting for lottery draw result? Looking for a different and unique course to test your limit? Consider signing up for Oman By UTMB race in the Middle East to be held from 29th to 30th November 2019. It will take you to discover not only through the lens of an ultra runner but through pure and true grit of humankind. 

Be amazed to be sent off by sounds of traditional Omani musical instrument and dance. Be prepared to be in silence and solitude of high mountain of an ancient land. Be equipped for a long demanding hike at the edge of a canyon, while traversing through abandoned villages, rough terrain, and lush plantation. Be bedazzled by illuminated night sky and an amazing sunrise.

Arabian canyon - sunrise. Oman by UTMB
Experience night run and bright sunrise in the Arabian canyon. Picture credit: Antony Jones, courtesy of Oman by UTMB

Before going into details, did you hear what previous contestants said in first-ever Oman by UTMB (130km distance) as the organiser interviewed those who were at Chamonix, France for the August UTMB Mont Blanc? Well, if you haven’t they can be summarised as below which you can sort of gather the sentiment around it: technical, like Skyrace, very mystical, challenging both physically and mentally, tough & brutal than expected, absolutely phenomenal, fantastic scenery,  crazy race but amazing adventure.  

Omani traditional performance. Oman by UTMB
Omani traditional performance. Picture credit: Franck Oddoux, courtesy of Oman by UTMB

After a successful inaugural last year, the promise of a bigger and better race is something to look forward to. David Graham, CEO of Oman Sail,  the body who’s hosting this prestigious race, spoke in Chamonix in promoting this race to the international trail running community.

  1. JBS: The introduction of a longer distance of 170km and higher cumulative elevation 10,400m+ will extend runners to summit Jebel Shams (Mountain of Sun), Oman’s highest peak at 3000 metres. As stated, this category is recommended for ‘extremely experienced adventurers’ and they ‘must be completely self-sufficient for a minimum of 10 hours’ – giving an indication of how tough this can be. Last time I checked, there are 20 spots left out of 150 which is exciting indeed. Could this be the next level of Skyrace? 
  2. JBA: The main 130km race with cumulative elevation 7,400m+ mostly covering Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) showed a 56% DNF rate last year (myself included in this statistic), which I would hope and expect for a much better success rate. The course looks identical to last year, but the cut-off times are not yet been finalised (44 hours in 2018). Last year, out of 142 runners who finished the majority (46%) took over 40 hours to complete.
  3. AHM: A shorter and friendly 50km race with 2,300m+ cumulative elevation although not to be taken lightly is another new addition that’s very much welcome. Runners will start and finish in Al Hamra after making a loop course.

The finishers of 170km, 130km, and 50km races will be granted qualifying International Trail Running Association (ITRA) points of 6, 5 and 3 respectively.

Dramatic canyon and wadi. Oman by UTMB
A typical wadi within the canyon. Picture credit: Franck Oddoux, courtesy of Oman by UTMB

While the 50km training plan is published on the website prepared by Jean-Claude Banff, the coach partner of UTMB Mont Blanc – no training plan published for the other races with the guaranteed entry. 

My training advice is to get a coach for structured training, focus on the technical aspect of the trail of ascending/descending, lots of time on vertical training, train on rocky terrain,  practice night run and study the course with fine-tooth comb especially the technical and hazardous sections. Importantly, prepare for a strong mind coming into this race. I’ve taken part in a number of Middle East races in UAE  with a good elevation of similar terrain (100km with ITRA qualifying points) but not as exposed as those open sections in Jabal Akhdar. 

A runner getting assistance from rope, helmet and harness. Oman by UTMB
A runner getting assistance from the supplied rope, helmet and harness. Picture credit: Franck Oddoux, courtesy of Oman by UTMB

That said, Oman will enchanter you with its natural beauty, and friendly people (some would argue it’s the friendliest of the entire Arabian Peninsula). Perfect weather to run as Oman experience mild winter if you want to escape from monotonous tropical climate or freezing European winter. 

Running aside, there are other activities to do in Oman. Through several visits, I have enjoyed snorkelling, boat ride to an uninhabited island, trekking wadis (dry river beds), wandering around the Omani souq (market), exploring the sand dune, getting a high dose of culture at the museum and mosque visits. From wild camping under stars at the uncrowded beach to indulging at the luxury mountain retreat (Alila Hotel which is also a Checkpoint location 72km mark during the race), Oman has it all.

Fort at Birkat Al Mawz, Nizwa. Oman by UTMB
The fort at Birkat Al Mawz, Nizwa. Picture Credit: Franck Oddoux, courtesy of Oman by UTMB

Take advantage of discounts for travelling on airfare by Oman Air, car rental and hotel stay. More details on Oman by UTMB website below where you can avail the promotion or discount codes. You can fly to Muscat or get a connection via Dubai or Doha. Driving is an option via Dubai. Getting to Nizwa which is the main base of the event is under 2 hours away from the capital of Muscat. 

Do hop by 2018 Oman By UTMB race report for insights, including informative interviews with various participants and list of other runners’ blogs to enrich you!

Will you sign up? If you are mostly fit physically, love a technical course and strong mentally, Oman by UTMB will not only fix your crave for adventure running – it will take you to the next level.

www.omanbyutmb.com

See you in trail. 

Live to thrive,

SOTG. x

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