‘AN ULTRAMARAT­HON IS A LOT LIKE LIFE’

▶ Dubai busi­ness­man Haysam Eid went from re­luc­tant run­ner to elite racer in lit­tle over a year. He tells So­phie Prideaux how he did it

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE -

Only 12 months ago, Haysam Eid had never run a marathon. In fact, he had not done much run­ning at all. The Dubai en­tre­pre­neur says he has al­ways been sporty, as a com­pet­i­tive showjumper and keen CrossFit­ter, but run­ning is not some­thing that came nat­u­rally to him. “I never ran in school,” he says. “I was never the kid who was go­ing to reach the fin­ish­ing line first or any­thing like that.” But not only has Eid, 35, well and truly found his stride, but he also com­pleted one of the tough­est races in the world last month.

A lit­tle over a year into his run­ning ca­reer, Eid took part in the Ul­tra X Jor­dan, a 250-kilo­me­tre com­pe­ti­tion through the Jor­da­nian desert. The race, which is split across five days, passes through some of the world’s most ex­treme con­di­tions, with tem­per­a­tures reach­ing up to 40°C in the mid­day sun. Eid ran the Ul­tra X Jor­dan for char­ity JustWorld, which helps to trans­form the lives of chil­dren in im­pov­er­ished com­mu­ni­ties by fund­ing ed­u­ca­tion and nutri­tion pro­grammes.

So how does one go from novice to marathoner in such a short space of time? “I started run­ning as a way to boost my fit­ness for Cross­Fit,” Eid says. “I went out a cou­ple of times a week with my gym, In­nerFight, and re­alised that I wasn’t as bad at run­ning as I had re­mem­bered.”

One of Eid’s coaches at In­nerFight is ex­treme ath­lete Mar­cus Smith, who ran 30 marathons in 30 days dur­ing last year’s Dubai Fit­ness Chal­lenge. Eid was so in­spired by this ef­fort that he de­cided to join Smith for one of the races, get­ting his first taste of long-dis­tance run­ning. It was enough to push Eid to set him­self a huge chal­lenge of his own. With Smith’s help, Eid fol­lowed a gru­elling train­ing plan to help him pre­pare for his first ultramarat­hon, which he took on in early Oc­to­ber. “The thing I was wor­ried about was the train­ing,” he says. “I thought I could cope with the race – it’s only five days. But I’m a hus­band and fa­ther, and I was wor­ried about how the train­ing would fit into my life­style and work­ing sched­ule. But Mar­cus made it sound sim­ple – only four runs a week. And I thought ‘OK, that is man­age­able.’”

And de­spite be­ing a hus­band, fa­ther of two and founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Eideal hair tool brand – and spend­ing most of the sum­mer trav­el­ling – he man­aged to never fal­ter on his four weekly runs. As a re­sult, not only did he com­plete the Ul­tra X Jor­dan, he came in sev­enth place. “I went into it with the mind­set that I just wanted to fin­ish. I told my­self that, worst-case sce­nario, I could walk the whole thing. I was re­laxed about it,” he says. “I could see some of the par­tic­i­pants pan­ick­ing a lit­tle bit, stress­ing. I was in a dif­fer­ent zone, which prob­a­bly helped me a lit­tle bit.”

On the first day, in which run­ners com­plete 40km, Eid ex­pe­ri­enced se­vere cramp­ing af­ter start­ing too fast, caus­ing him to have to walk for sec­tions of the course. But by the sec­ond day, he had found a com­fort­able and steady pace, and was as­ton­ished to find him­self rapidly climb­ing the leader board.

“I’m a com­pet­i­tive per­son by na­ture,” he says. “I started off com­pet­ing with my­self – that was my only aim. But then, when I saw my chance to be on the leader board, it turned into a race for me. It got me go­ing and I wanted to fin­ish in a good place. Know­ing that I was [in that po­si­tion] for my first ul­tra, there was no way I was go­ing to stop at any point – even dur­ing the last day that was phys­i­cally very tough for me be­cause I was al­ready in so much pain. I pushed through be­cause I wanted to im­prove my po­si­tion – and I did.”

Eid also fin­ished fourth in his age cat­e­gory, which en­abled him to qual­ify for the 2021 Multi-Stage Ul­tra World Cham­pi­onships, a race be­tween the best Ul­tra X run­ners in the world. It’s just as well, then, that Eid has caught the ultramarat­hon bug. “I went into it with the mind­set that it was just go­ing to be a one-off, be­cause it takes up a lot of time and prepa­ra­tion, but now that I have done it, I feel like I want to do more. It’s a good op­por­tu­nity to travel the world and see dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tions, con­nect with like-minded peo­ple. And it’s really a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says.

“In fact, an ultramarat­hon is a lot like life. It’s a long race. There will be many times when you feel on top of the world and there will be times when you want to give up, but a set­back doesn’t mean you won’t make it to the fin­ish line. It might not al­ways be in sight, but it is al­ways there.”

Bene­dict Tufnell

Ul­tra X Jor­dan takes run­ners along a tough but scenic route through the coun­try’s desert

Bene­dict Tufnell

Haysam Eid takes part in his first ultramarat­hon

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