An Abu Dhabi Police officer who recently raced in the world’s coldest inhabited town of Oymyakon, Russia, says that he was thrilled to participate in the brutal competition, which saw him finish second.
Major Ahmed Hussein Al Katheeri, 44, from Abu Dhabi Police’s Community Security Sector, took part in the “Cold Pole Oymyakon” race in Russian Siberia on January 22nd, racing against a group of mainly local athletes in harsh weather conditions at a temperature of -50 degrees Celsius.
“My entire motivation for completing the race was to raise the UAE flag, knowing that I would be the first to do it,” he told Khaleej Times.
The Emirati is the first Arab athlete to participate in the race, at the invitation of the Russian Athletics Federation. Al Katheeri previously participated in other races and is planning to complete the four desert grand slam ‘plus’ by completing five races on five different continents within one fiscal year. The first was a race in Namibia in October 2021 in which he completed a 250 km trail run. He will also be racing in Antarctica in 2022.
The extreme 42km-race in Oymyakon attracted 65 athletes, mostly Russians, along with an American, an Indian and a Belarusian. The runners had the option to withdraw at different distances 5km, 10km and 21km, an option which Al Katheeri entertained.
“I experienced sharp pains in my toes and fingers for the first 5 kilometres and I was seriously thinking of going back to the starting point to put on additional thermal stickers or wait until my body warmed up as I ran, but I decided to continue.”
Explaining the challenges he faced, Al Katheeri said, “At times it was terrifying, despite all of my rigorous preparation, it was still a new zone for me. First and foremost, the temperature was lower than anticipated, and I was aware of the fact that there was no room for mistakes or accidents, especially as the checkpoints were 10kms apart, which is the maximum distance in normal races that are held in normal temperatures. This meant that our emergency exits represented by these checkpoints were really far from each other in case of an emergency.”
As he approached the finish line, Al Katheeri says he was thrilled because “I had overcome one of my weaknesses: running in this weather.”
He says he hopes to serve as a role model for young people who want to achieve even more for the UAE.
“The country has given us a lot and invested in us, and the least we can do is contribute to its international success and progress.”
After he completed the race in 5:39 hours, the runner noted how refracted light from the snow had left him temporarily blind.
“I was snow blind by the end of the race,” he said. “I celebrated my victory by not seeing anything for the rest of the evening,” he jokingly concluded.
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