Ramadan 2022: UAE runners on how they keep fit during the holy month

The country's athletes discuss their passion for running and how fasting plays a role in their fitness


Husain Rizvi

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Mon 18 Apr 2022, 12:06 PM

Last updated: Mon 22 May 2023, 12:43 PM

Running for at least 10 minutes a day can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. That, among several other benefits, is why people choose to run as a form of exercise.

Earlier this month, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) organised a workshop to develop a new plan for the next edition of the National Programme to Combat Obesity in Children and Adolescents, which will be the first in the next 50 years. It aims to promote healthy lifestyles and enhance the well-being of children and adolescents.

The UAE continues to implement different techniques to keep its citizens active. Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan is a prime example of a healthy and fit leader; a leader who encourages healthier and active lifestyles. More often than not, the Crown Prince is seen hitting the gym, going on a run, and doing various activities to keep himself fit.

Last November, Sheikh Hamdan and countless others came together for Dubai Run, the world's largest run which took place on an early Friday morning on Sheikh Zayed Road.

146,000 residents, young and old, men, women, and children, residents and expats, all marked their presence alongside the Crown Prince, who once said, "Together, let's make UAE the most active country in the world."

When it comes to running, some embrace the sport from their youth, while others only get into the activity late in life. Nevertheless, they end up doing wonders. One of them is Sami Anis, a 44-year-old Syrian expat who has been living in the UAE for the last 19 years. “When I started running in 2010, I only wanted to finish one full marathon of 42k in Dubai,” he says in a conversation with City Times. “Now, I have completed several races, won many podiums, and have so many reasons to keep running.”

“I also help others to achieve their goals and inspire them to become better versions of themselves,” he says. Perhaps, this is how he aims to give back to the city and community where he has resided for nearly two decades.

We speak to Sami, and two other athletes Jade Blackmore and Adeeb Zaheer, who tell us about their passion for running, their knowledge of the sport and the injuries one should be wary of, and how they keep at it even during the month of Ramadan.

Sami Anis

Occupation: IT Director

Why do you run?

Running is my therapy, it allows me to face my fears, and I feel empowered and resilient.

I love to challenge myself, and to achieve new goals. Every time I push a little further, I feel physically and mentally stronger.

What milestones have you achieved and aim to achieve?

My biggest achievement was in Berlin last September when I managed to run a full marathon distance in just under 3 hours.

I have also been to the podium for many races in UAE. My latest achievement came during the Expo run when I came first out of 800 runners in my age category, and ninth overall out of 3000 runners.

I am looking forward to getting the six star medal of the 6 world marathon majors. I grabbed my first star in Berlin last year and I am chasing the Boston and London stars this year.

What is the best way to avoid injuries in this sport?

With proper preparation, stretching and right hydration I haven’t incurred major injuries. Just like any other athlete, I get some pain here and there when I run long distances or when I am over trained.

As summer approaches, running in heat may expose me to dehydration. I make sure I have proper hydration and electrolytes especially when I am planning a long run.

Stretching before and after each running session is essential, and strength training for all body muscles. Core muscles, in particular, play a big role to help avoid injuries in the lower body; knees, calves, achilles.

Getting enough rest and sleep plays a key role in recovering and getting ready for the next run.

When do you get new running shoes?

I have different running shoes for various running exercises like speed sessions and daily runs. I also keep a different pair for race day.

I usually get a new pair after using one for 600-800kms; every 6 months.

Also, If I start feeling pain in my knees, hips, or ankles, I change my running shoes. Sometimes, offers and promotions are also valid reasons for me to retire old running shoes.

How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?

During summer or humid days, it’s not always easy to find the motive to run or get the rewarding feeling of running.

Being a part of a running club ‘Run 4 A Purpose’, where I am joined by friends and other athletes, keeps me motivated and committed. There are also other tricks I do to kick back the lack of motivation like changing the running route, or adding some workout to my run. However nothing makes motivation flow like reminding myself of my biggest challenge and dream of six world marathons; it is something which, if accomplished, will make me so proud.

Do you plan to be a part of any races in the near future?

With summer here, we can consider UAE’s racing season on a break. However, I am very excited to race in the Boston marathon this week, it’s one of the toughest races in the world.

I have also qualified for the World Marathon Majors Age Group World Championships in London.

How does Ramadan impact your sport routine?

During Ramadan, I limit the time of my exercises and running to 45-50 minutes. I avoid intense exercises or long runs that will leave me too sore, I prefer to go for easy runs around 9.30pm.

Some days, I run just before Iftar so I can break my fast after I finish my run.

In Ramadan, I also focus primarily on maintenance and recovery.

Jade Blackmore

Occupation: Athlete, Fitness Instructor

Why do you run?

I started running 10 years ago to raise money for my sister’s charity after she was diagnosed with cancer (she made a full recovery). And, in doing so, I realised that running actually saved me and changed my life for the better.

What milestones have you achieved?

My biggest milestone to date is running 50km to raise awareness for equality in 2020 (#runforequality with Underarmour). Running has taken me around the world for many races including two marathon majors, Berlin and Chicago! New York is coming up this year, so only three to go.

What milestones do you hope to achieve?

This year will be my biggest running challenge to date. 90km ultra run in South Africa followed by the New York Marathon to finish the year.

What injuries are you susceptible to during running?

I don’t want to jinx myself but I’ve been injury free for a few years now. As I started out running, I suffered a little with shin splints but thankfully nothing to report recently.

Best way to avoid injuries...

Warming up is crucial with running. So are strength training and fuelling your body properly. Resting is also crucial as your body repairs itself.

How do you stay motivated when you don’t feel like running?

I’ve recently got back to running after giving birth and it was a shock to the system not being at the level I was pre-pregnancy. But knowing how running changed my life for the better is what gets me laced up every time. Even on the bad days I know I’ll feel better after a run.

When do you get new running shoes?

I go through lots of running shoes with the mileage I run but luckily I’m sponsored by the best brand. It always keeps me stocked up with the best shoes. My running shoes are also connected to map my run so I’m notified when it’s time to replace them.

How have you invested in the knowledge of the sport?

I’ve been lucky enough to run with some incredible athletes through different running clubs. I have invested in a running coach who has given me invaluable knowledge over the last few years. And I love to listen to podcasts about running. This also gives me a lot of motivation.

What role does Ramadan play in your sport routine?

This is my first time fasting and it’s definitely changed my running routine. I’m currently training for the Copenhagen marathon next month so my mileage is high but I’m having to run in the evenings rather than the mornings. I’ve been filming my online YouTube workouts (Jade Limitless) everyday before Iftar. Then I run three evenings a week around 9pm. Ramadan has taught me to be even more disciplined with my running as now I have to make sure I still push myself to go late at night.

Adeeb Zaheer

Occupation: Key Accounts Coordinator

Why do you run?

Running has always been my passion since childhood. The reason why I run is to be a better version of myself, to keep away from mental stress and also for a good work-life balance.

What milestones have you achieved and aim to achieve?

I have won a lot of medals since childhood for running. Though I feel it’s not in my genes, my hardwork and effort helped me reach national level back in school days, which is my greatest achievement. I was also one of the fastest runners in specified events among other schools in the UAE. However, due to constraints and injuries, I was not able to reach the elite level. Now, I look forward to running in various mid distance events (road running) like 3ks and 5ks and try coming to the top 10 positions.

What’s the best way to avoid injuries in this sport?

It depends on how you warm up. A good warm up is the best way to avoid injuries, especially in sensitive areas such as hamstrings and knee ligaments.

When do you get new running shoes?

Usually every 8-12 months, depending on the condition and comfort of the shoes.

How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?

There are days when I am not able to run and the best way, for me, to stay motivated is to watch some motivational reels. To keep my fitness level intact, I keep my body active during the day by stretching or even walking around my neighbourhood.

Do you plan to be a part of any races in the near future?

Right now I’m not looking forward to running any races. I am focusing more on off season training till November. However, I am trying to get back to track running (athletics).

How have you invested in the knowledge of the sport?

I have actually taken a pre level 1 coaching course from World Athletics which not only brings in the knowledge for running but also educates me in various aspects such as anatomy, coach-student relationships, stages of athlete development, injury prevention etc.

How does Ramadan play a role in your sport routine?

In Ramadan, I ensure to do a minimum of 30 minutes of body activity during the day. At times, I work out before Iftar keeping in mind the intensity that may cause fatigue during my fasting hours.


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