utmb oman: the beast


It is now one week on from what was undoubtedly the toughest race that I have ever par­ti­cip­ated in.

UTMB Oman has been called the “Beast from the Middle East”, how­ever it is dif­fi­cult to truly describe to any­one who has not attemp­ted to tra­verse the rocky ter­rain around Jebel Akh­dar what this means.

Out of the 329 ath­letes who toed the start line there were only 142 who fin­ished and of these almost half took over 40 hours. I think it is fair to say that no one had expec­ted the course they were giv­en.

An ultramara­thon with 8,000 metres of ascent and 137 km is by no means insig­ni­fic­ant but what made the course so tough was the con­tinu­ing tech­nic­al­ity of the ter­rain. This meant that every step had to be care­fully placed and the major­ity was an enforced hike.

The route itself was as mag­ni­fi­cent as it was chal­len­ging. The views from the moun­tain ledges were end­less and some of the drops into the canyons would make your stom­ach turn.


I was taught a ser­i­ous les­son in pre-race admin. Hav­ing quaffed at the man­dat­ory kit list requir­ing two headtorches as well as extra bat­ter­ies I did­n’t prop­erly check any, and so when both headtorches ran out ten miles in and my spares turned out to be water dam­aged from my last race, I could have been in ser­i­ous trouble. Reflect­or mark­ings work well if you have a light but if you don’t it means you are com­pletely blind.

After sev­er­al hours of stum­bling after any light that could be found, I was saved by a French gen­tle­man donat­ing his backup. The light was­n’t as bright as some, but kept me mov­ing through night 1, and then night 2…

Unfor­tu­nately, the headtorch situ­ation meant that for me it was no longer a race and rather a ques­tion of get­ting to the end.

The men­tal chal­lenge of being unable to move at more than 5 km an hour made it incred­ibly tough, but the idea of quit­ting was simply not an option. At check­point 18 a big group of par­ti­cipants became a small one when we were told that the lead­ers had taken five hours to cov­er the final sec­tion and we would most likely take sev­en. The three ver­tic­al kilo­metres that fol­lowed (1,000 metres of climb­ing) con­trib­uted to my crew spend­ing all night camped at the fin­ish and the last 25 km tak­ing a whop­ping eight hours!



Photo Cred­it: Carlin Ger­bich (@Carlingerbich)

Fin­ish­ing in 34 hours and 50 minutes meant fin­ish­ing 43rd over­all, 7th in age cat­egory and 5th Brit so I will take it.

This was def­in­itely not the per­fect race (or even close) for me but I gained invalu­able exper­i­ence. The organ­iz­a­tion behind the occa­sion was excep­tion­al and I am look­ing for­ward to the main event in Chamonix next August where Ultra X are going to be all week.


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