What it's like to run through Dubai with marathon record-breaker Nick Butter

The National’s personal finance editor joined the adventurer on the UAE leg of his challenge to run 196 marathons in 692 days

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When my personal trainer friend Emma White asked if I fancied heading out with “the guy running 196 marathons in 196 countries” last Friday, I ignored her message at first. I enjoy running, but I would describe myself as a “mum runner” – slow and steady – and therefore not someone who could keep pace with a 29-year-old athlete looking to break a new world record.

But when another pal suggested staying at the back of the pack if British adventurer Nick Butter, of the Running The World 196 challenge, sprinted off, I thought, go on then. On Friday morning, a group of nine people assembled in Dubai's Jumeirah outside a villa belonging to Rodolphe Cazavant, a managing director in the financial services industry, from France, who was putting Nick up during the UAE leg of his world tour.

Most of the group were friends – fellow mums gathered together by Emma, who enjoy the occasional light run. Among them were Matt and Hannah Stuart, British parents of Bertie – a severely autistic 6-year-old – who was accompanying us in a special pushchair.

Nick came out to greet us, putting us at ease immediately. Although he can run a marathon in about three hours, he assured us it was "not about pace". When he sprinted off in the first few seconds, I thought it was all over, before it became evident that Nick was running ahead to capture the start of the run on his phone.

Throughout the morning, he paused to snap pictures, and he used two GoPros to track his journey to ensure his global record attempt is accurate.

Nick was very personable, keen to chat to everyone in the group and hear their stories, as well as share his own. He told us that 65 per cent of the marathons he has run have been on his own, so he was delighted to have a group willing to tag along with him. He even pushed Bertie's pram for a section of the journey. For him, it was more about the social experience than trying to finish each marathon at breakneck speed.

Seven kilometres in, a couple of runners headed off to other Friday commitments, but I was eager for more. Apart from the sheer thrill of being involved in a world record attempt – it will be documented in a book and video – I enjoyed running the length of La Mer and up to the new Bvlgari Resort Dubai on Jumeirah Bay Island.

In total, I ran 10km of Nick's Dubai leg, keeping up with the group the whole time simply because his energy and enthusiasm were so infectious. Others, who had intended to put in a good 10km, ran 22km, while a further two completed the marathon. 

Emma, who runs the fitness company Bactive.me, had arranged our involvement via Instagram. She sums up how amazing it was to spend the morning running with someone with boundless energy and charisma.
"This was his 103rd marathon, so I assumed he was going to be knackered by now, but he was the complete opposite," she says. "He was so pumped up, so friendly and so open about his goals in life. I kept thinking to myself – he's got another 93 of these to do."


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For more information or to run with Nick Butter, visit www.runningtheworld196.com or follow his journey on Instagram @nickbutterrun