Nic Woodthorpe-Wright, that's the name you need to keep in mind whenever you think of something that's totally out of the blue. The Vertical Marathon, which hopes to raise Dh70,000 in aid of Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF), was the baby of Mr Woodthorpe-Wright...

By Duane Fonseca

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Published: Wed 25 May 2005, 12:55 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:59 PM

born in his head, okayed by MSF's brainstorming team and ready to be held at the Emirates Towers Offices building on the spectacular Shaikh Zayed Road for the fourth time on May 27.

"One of our local volunteers (Nic Woodthorpe-Wright) had conceived the idea. The activities we do to raise funds are generally thought up during the brainstorming sessions, which are held during the group's meetings. The hotel was very happy to play host and work out the prizes and it got underway quite smoothly. Dubai is a transient city and that's one of the reasons the event has been doing really well over the years. People love to take part in the event and since many of them are constantly on the move, watching the Emirates Towers hotel on TV or the newspapers gives them a chance to tell others they've been there," said Geraldine Gallagher, public relations and events coordinator of MSF UAE.

Gallagher mentioned that people, who have participated in the challenge before, come back for more and with many other eager runners. "The marathon is run as an individual and team event. Where team prizes are concerned the team that takes the least average time to reach the top is adjudicated winner. The competition is quite intense and that's why we send the runners up in batches.

Different participants view the event differently, some are highly athletic and they like to speed up the stairs, while the others just take it easy. Besides, it helps people to get into shape."

Getting and staying in shape for the event is sure to rank high on the participants' agenda. Firstly, since the challenge entails climbing 52 floors of the building and then, beating the fastest time of 8:57minutes is surely not going to be easy, when one considers the number of steps that need to be scaled... 1,334 of them. This year's event, Gallagher says, is even tougher than those run in the past.

"The race will begin at the Godolphin Ballroom and the participants will have to race for approximately 200 metres and up two flights of stairs until they reach the stairwell of the Offices building from where they have the stairs to tackle."

The event will be hosted by the Jumeirah International, enabling all profits to go directly to MSF, for use in different parts of the world. Through the event, MSF's UAE branch hopes to raise approximately Dh70,000. MSF, Gallagher said, operates in 77 countries in the world. "The figure is not a constant though and increases or decreases as the needs of the world change. For example, when the civil war on in Sri Lanka, MSF was highly involved in aid work there, pulling out its volunteers only after hostilities had ceased, but after the tsunami struck the country, Sri Lanka was put back on the MSF's list of countries. So, at one particular point it would be difficult to get to an exact figure of the number of countries in which the MSF has its people."

The MSF carries out a clearly specified range of activities. These include, supplying medical aid to people who either don't have it or don't have access to it, either because of war or some kind of conflict. Countries where the housecare support is very poor also have the backing of the MSF. "The organisation has volunteer doctors and nurses and it supplies people with clean drinking water and sanitation facilities because it believes that these basic things are very important to sustain good health."

According to Gallagher, MSF UAE has a total membership of 900 volunteers, out of which only 500 can be considered active. "We get a lot of calls from people wanting to be volunteers because they hear about it through the people they associate with on a daily basis. They've heard good things about the organisation and they feel they need to do their part in helping the less fortunate ones. The activities don't take too much of time and volunteers can do things like putting up notices. So, we welcome people wanting to be volunteers." Through its three events with the Jumeirah International, the MSF UAE has so far been able to raise up to Dh170,000 in funds. And if all goes well, that figure could really jump high.

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