Dubai athlete Souleymane Ghani gears up for world-record run across UAE's seven emirates

The resident from Togo aims to accomplish the gruelling journey in five days

Souleymane Ghani will attempt to run the seven emirates in five days, from March 9 to 13. Photo: Souleymane Ghani
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Souleymane Ghani is admirably calm even as he is poised to break a world record: the Dubai resident will embark on a "non-stop marathon" across the UAE, covering a distance of 700km (or about five trips between Dubai and Abu Dhabi) in five days.

“I feel like I have been preparing for this since I was born,” he tells The National, only days before he embarks on his run. It kicks off at the Saudi Arabia-UAE border at Al Ghuwaifat in Abu Dhabi on Thursday morning, moving on to Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah, and is meant to finish in Fujairah next Monday.

The run starts at Al Ghuwaifat in Abu Dhabi, and it ends at the Fujairah International Marine Club.

Based on his calculations, Ghani will have to run for four to five hours straight, after which he will take a break for 45 minutes, a period he will use to eat and take power naps.

The feat attempts to break the Guinness World Record for the Fastest Crossing of the United Arab Emirates on Foot. The title is currently held by Sean Burgess, another Dubai resident, who traversed the seven emirates on foot in six days, 21 hours and 48 minutes in 2021.

Two cars will follow Ghani through the journey, carrying food and first-aid paraphernalia. The route, Ghani says, is planned to ensure he has easy access to hospitals if the need arises.

The Dubai resident is no stranger to long runs, and says his past marathons have prepared him for this feat.

In 2020, for instance, Ghani ran for 17 hours straight from Hatta to Dubai at the peak of summer, clocking a distance of 110km. He has done other routes too, including Dubai to Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah to Dubai.

“This is going to be like doing what I do every day,” he says with charming confidence. Running is a huge part of his daily life, he adds. Other than marathons, Ghani jogs 40km every day, and describes the sport as his version of meditating.

Ghani says he has not done any specific training for the coming 700km run, but fully recognises the impact it could have on his physical and mental state. This is why planning, he explains, is crucial — knowing when to take a break or when to drink water and eat, for example.

The fact running is a passion also helps Ghani in pushing through physically and mentally demanding trails.

“I did my first marathon in 2017, and I fell in love with it,” he says. “After that, I felt so good, I just never stopped. I would run every day before and after going to work,” he says.

Ghani, who is from Togo, West Africa, also coaches other runners and works as a running expert at adidas.

When he's doing long runs, the Dubai resident admits the need for a strong support system. “The people I surround myself with are really important. I can't allow just anyone to be with me when I'm doing such runs,” he explains. During Ghani's Dubai-Hatta stint, he was accompanied by fellow runner Hamad Salem.

Souleymane Ghani with fellow adidas runners. Photo: Souleymane Ghani

Ghani says he had always sought the support of Salem, whom he describes as his brother, and someone who knows him like the back of his hand.

“He knows when to talk to me, what words to use and at what point. He knows when to give me water and he knows when I need to stop and rest,” Ghani says.

This is crucial because during these stretches, Ghani says “you lose the ability to think straight, and Salem knows when that happens”.

Passion aside, Ghani says a purpose is a good motivation when it comes to these marathons as well.

The run, similar to Burgess's 2021 achievement, is a charity event between adidas and Al Jalila Foundation. It is set to benefit Heroes of Hope, a non-profit organisation for athletes of determination.

As Ghani puts it, the marathon is just another challenge to push himself more as an athlete. “I just have to do it with a different vision."

Updated: March 07, 2023, 1:33 PM