UAE athlete who once weighed 100kg now aces marathons around the world

Among the difficulties Abdulla AlShehhi faces in the UAE is the lack of popularity of running as compared to other sports.


Ruqayya Al Qaydi

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Published: Sat 15 Jun 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 16 Jun 2024, 6:52 PM

There was a time when he would barely step on a treadmill and be out of breath within minutes. Now, however, Abdulla AlShehhi has run as many as 15 marathons — in the UAE and abroad.

The long-distance runner from Ras Al Khaimah said his fitness journey began more than a decade ago when he made a firm decision to lose weight. He was about 100kg then.

The Emirati started a strict physical regimen, running only short distances in the beginning. One day in 2014, while on the streets of Ras Al Khaimah, he noticed a striking billboard advertising a marathon. This piqued his interest and soon, he ran his first marathon in Dubai.

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Since then, AlShehhi's goal to live a healthy life has kept him going and made him join marathons beyond the borders of the UAE.

His latest was the Boston Marathon in April this year, where he earned the coveted ‘Six Star Finisher Medal’, introduced by the Abbott World Marathon Majors in 2016 to honour runners who complete all six major marathons of the world.

AlShehhi is aiming to achieve more. “Setting goals has kept me going, so I advise people to set new goals each time to keep them going in anything they are working on.”

Balancing work and running

AlShehhi is an engineer at Adnoc. His work requires him to go to an island for two weeks every month; his shift is from 6am to 6pm.

When asked how he managed to continue running and training despite the nature of his work, he said he either ran very early in the morning or after finishing his shift.

He often runs around the island. "The island is small, but I run many laps around it to train.”

Among the difficulties AlShehhi says he faces is the lack of popularity of running in the UAE as compared to other sports. Also, the hot summer weather hinders him from running outside.

During summer, AlShehhi goes to indoor running halls in Abu Dhabi, and the gym is also another option. He, however, said: "I prefer running outdoors, even in the summer, even if it's only for short periods. I take advantage when the weather is nice in the evening or early morning."


For AlShehhi, running serves as a release from the pressures of life, making him feel calm and focused in both his personal and professional life. "One day, I was feeling pressured in many aspects. I went out for a run and discovered that I had run 15 kilometres without even realising it.”

AlShehhi says running was really challenging during the Covid-19 period. "During the lockdown, I used to run back and forth in the hotel room. It (pandemic) was one of the most difficult times for me.”

He aspires to participate in races in every continent of the world. "I wish there will be a marathon that brings together al the Gulf countries."


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