Just because we are currently ensconced in our homes, practising social distancing, doesn't mean we can't exercise. In fact, some UAE residents have put paid to that notion, completing long-distance races in their abodes. Here are four of their stories.
Backyard marathon: Lee Ryan
Adidas runners captain Lee Ryan has achieved many things in his running career. He's completed 37 marathons. He has joined the three-hour club, completing 42.2 kilometres in that time or under. He holds three Guinness World Records – the most recent for breaking his own Guinness World Record of “fastest marathon runner pushing a double stroller”, completed at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon in 2018.
But never has he done anything like this.
This weekend, Ryan ran laps around his backyard for more than five hours, until his Garmin watch told him he'd completed 42.2km.
"It was one of the toughest I've done," he says.
"Because there was a nice refrigerator full of food, there was a comfy sofa, there was a TV and my family was indoors, there was a nice warm bed, there was a shower – all literally within arm's length of where I was running a marathon. And that's something I've never had to experience before, so the dedication and the discipline had to be higher."
Ryan was inspired to give the backyard marathon a crack after he saw a fellow runner in the US achieving the same distance on his balcony. He also wanted to inspire his crew, Dubai's Adidas Runners, who he hadn't been able to coach several times a week as he usually did. And then there's the fact that he just really loves running.
"I just wanted to stretch my legs and get a bit sweaty and out of breath because I know what running gives me, and my family know what it gives me," he says.
And so, Ryan measured his garden, first with his Garmin and then with a tape measure. It came in at about 30 metres, meaning he'd have to do that same lap almost 1,407 times to complete the run.
While he knew he wasn't about to knock off a personal best, Ryan certainly didn't take it easy on himself, either. Other than a few toilet breaks, a bite of jam on toast from his wife and a quick break to help his daughter with some spelling, Ryan ran non-stop, finishing in five hours and 23 minutes.
"I wanted to run it as quickly as possible within control," he says. "A lot of people said 'you must have been bored'. But no, I wasn't. There was this sense of discovery, anticipation and intrigue."
His daughters, Lily, 5, and Sophia, 3, held up the finishing tape for Ryan to break as he completed the race, and handed him a mini plastic trophy and a hand-drawn certificate.
Ryan hoped the feat would help others realise that they can exercise without hitting the pavement outside.
"We have such a vast community full of different abilities and I wanted to inspire them. You can do what you can, when you can, with what you can.
"People need to change their outlook on what fitness is, their outlook on how fit they want to be and the outlook on how fit they need to be right now."
Indoor marathon: Jai Arumugam
Jai Arumugam ran 1,512 loops around his studio apartment in Dubai's Discovery Gardens to complete his third marathon this year.
And the feat came after the Adidas Runners member witnessed his coach, Ryan, completing his own.
Arumugam had been training for the Paris Marathon on Sunday, April 5, when his training was cut short by the coronavirus outbreak.
He had only taken up running this past September, and had since completed two marathons (Dubai and Chennai) and seven half-marathons.
And so this time, instead of running through the streets of the French capital, he set off inside his apartment, running for about five and a half hours, and measuring the distance on his Garmin watch.
"It took 36 loops to do 1km, and almost 1,512 loops to do 42.2km," he says.
As he ran, his wife handed him cut fruit, Pocari Sweat and cheered him on. He took several breaks to rehydrate, but otherwise ran non-stop through his apartment.
As he neared the end of the race, his wife put up a "Covid-19 finish line" tape, and handed him a home-made cardboard medal.
"She took my Ras Al Khaimah half-marathon medal and tried to replicate it. The moment I finished the 42.2km she surprised me with the medal and that was one of the best things. That medal is placed with my other medals as well. It's one of the greatest gifts I've ever gotten from my wife," he says.
"We don't need fancy equipment to stay fit, all you need is space. If you want to run you can do it indoors."
Balcony marathon: Collin and Hilda Allin
A South African couple completed a full 42.2km marathon on their balcony on Saturday morning in Dubai.
Collin Allin and wife Hilda, both 41, finished the course, which consisted of running back and forth along their 19-metre balcony, in four hours and 35 minutes.
Collin said the run was a huge success but they had to overcome an unexpected hurdle at the start – rain.
“We hadn’t planned for rain at all which made it a bit trickier because it made the tiles slippery,” he said.
“There were times when I found myself getting frustrated because we couldn’t really open up and run because we were restricted to the balcony.
“It was like running with an elastic band stuck to you that was snapping you back every time you got so far.”
Despite the limitations, he said the run went better than expected with more than 5,500 people joining the live feeds on Facebook and Instagram.
“We had about 20 people actually joining in with running from home, some were doing 5km or 10km while others were running a bit more,” he said.
“There was one friend living in Qatar who ran the whole marathon with us.”
While the event went down well with most people, there was one dissenting voice – that of the Facebook moderators who warned Collin about playing music he did not own the rights to during the run.
“I was sent a list of all the songs I played that I didn’t have the copyright for,” he said.
“It was just my daughter playing some music to keep the mood light, it wasn’t like we were trying to make money from the songs. It seemed a bit unnecessary.”
Triathlon (well, not quite): Ben Potter
If you were to believe the incredible video Ben Potter put together to inspire his fellow triathletes, you'd be blown away at the idea that the Abu Dhabi resident completed an entire makeshift triathlon on his balcony. Yes – running, cycling and "swimming".
However, the swimming is performed as Potter lies horizontally aloft a tyre, using resistance bands on his arms and legs. The cycling, meanwhile, is done on his spacious balcony that wraps around his apartment, and the running is done the same way.
The video even includes transitions, nutrition and a quick 20-second hand-washing stop.
And while the two-minute clip is certainly impressive, it's also just that: a two-minute clip. At least, for now.
"It was just a bit of fun, I was messing around on the balcony wondering what I can do to send good vibes to the triathlon community," he says. "I wanted to put a good message out there, just to say 'come on guys, stay safe'."
But since sharing the video with the triathlon community, Potter's quirky idea is creeping more towards becoming reality. He's measured his balcony (one lap is 60 metres) and considered an Olympic triathlon (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run).
"It would mean 667 laps cycling and 167 laps of running," he laughs.
But he's also considering the full distance, too. The Ironman 70.3 distance, Potter says, would mean he's riding 90km on the indoor Turbo Trainer, completing a half-marathon on his balcony, and "swimming" for about 30 minutes, which would translate to the 1.9km prescribed distance.
It would be a decent step up from his current routine.
In recent weeks, Potter has taken to strictly exercising indoors. This means cycling on a Turbo Trainer and running up and down the balcony. It had been a tough adjustment for the avid athlete, who completed the IronMan 70.3 Dubai in February, as well as Bahrain's equivalent two months before that.
He admits that the inspiration behind the video largely came after seeing people continuing to exercise outdoors, and to remind people that exercising indoors is doable, too.
"The key thing was for me to make it a bit of fun and to put a good message out there as well."