Dubai runners complete North Pole Marathon

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Dubai runners complete North Pole Marathon
Dubai based Lebanese athletes conquer North Pole. Supplied Photo.

Dubai - The Omni-Athletes, comprising Moustapha, Mazen Mroueh and Dani Afiouni, are no strangers to intense physical challenges.

By Bernd Debusmann Jr.

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Published: Sat 30 Apr 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 30 Apr 2016, 10:48 PM

A team of adventurous Dubai-based Lebanese athletes has returned to the UAE triumphant after a gruelling marathon across the icy expanses of the North Pole.
The North Pole Marathon, which was first conducted in 2003, is certified by the Guinness World Records as being the "Northernmost Marathon on Earth".
The Omni-Athletes, comprising Moustapha, Mazen Mroueh and Dani Afiouni, are no strangers to intense physical challenges.
In early 2015, for example, the team became the first Arabs to run the gruelling 777 challenge - seven marathons in seven days on seven continents - all to raise money for a cancer-struck one-year-old Syrian refugee from the city of Daraa. Additionally, they've climbed Mont Blanc and several other mountains. But, Moustapha Mroueh told Khaleej Times, nothing could have prepared them for the unique challenges of running in sub-zero temperatures, often in knee-deep snow.
"My usual time for a marathon is between three and four hours. I ran this one in seven," he said. "It was really tough. The temperature when we landed, and throughout, was about minus 35 degrees. That's really cold.
"Getting there and back was an adventure by itself," he added. "Due to global warming, the ice wasn't very solid and the runway where we were supposed to land cracked many times. It delayed our trip by four days. We were then stuck there for four days. We were supposed to go for twenty-four hours for the run only."
To prepare for the trip, the team's only cold-weather training for the North Pole was on the artificial snows of Ski Dubai, as well as outside in Dubai's scorching heat.
"For most of it, we had a difference of 80 degrees between here and the day of the race," Mroueh said. "We were training on sand sometimes to simulate the terrain, as well as at Ski Dubai, which is minus four to minus six."
According to Mroueh, aside from the terrain, the North Pole marathon poses another unique challenge: polar bears.
"That's another thing. There are polar bears around. They can come at you at 30 kilometres per hour, and you can barely run at five kilometres per hour," he said. "You wouldn't stand a chance. But that kind of environment motivates you to keep going, even when you are in so much pain because of the terrain and the cold.
"I like to challenge myself. I like to explore what is beyond my limitations, just to see how far I can go, and how far I can push my limits," he added.
Mroueh said that the team started discussions for their next adventure - a marathon at 5,300 metres above sea level - before they even began recovering from the North Pole.
"We were discussing it on the plane on the way back. I think we're looking at the Everest Marathon, the highest in the world," he said. "It has the two things that we love - climbing mountains and running marathons."

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