After 29 gruelling days battling sandstorms, extreme fatigue, and the excruciating pain of running on a broken foot, ultra runner Dr Khaled Al Suwaidi reached Makkah at the weekend.
Dr Al Suwaidi, an Emirati academic, undertook the 1,850-kilometre run to celebrate the close ties between the UAE and Saudi and inspire others to get "out of their comfort zone".
He stopped after reaching the boundaries of the Great Mosque of Makkah on Friday afternoon.
"It felt so surreal," he said.
Dr Al Suwaidi headed back to the camp outside the city to celebrate with his team and don the robe Muslims wear to perform Umrah before driving back in the early hours of Saturday to walk the final leg.
“What struck me was there were so many people waiting for me on the streets of Makkah. They wanted to take pictures with me. It was incredible.”
Although he prepared well for the challenge, running about 10,400km in the past year to train for the feat, he was still struck by how difficult it was at times.
First, he battled through a sandstorm on Day 13, then eight days ago he suffered a small fracture in his left foot due to the constant pounding on the roads. He kept running and, remarkably, the injury only served to push him on.
"There is always a moment in a journey that changes the mentality of a situation. I think the fractured left foot is something that gave me fire in my belly, because I pushed my average from 54km a day to 70km over the last eight to nine days," Dr Al Suwaidi said.
“The body is a machine. It sends you warning signals that something is wrong. But at some point if you don’t accept those signals it starts to assist you in recovering and trying to figuring a way of making it less harmful for yourself. So that’s what happened. You get used to it. I was about 20 days in. There was no going back.”
He plans to spend the next few days in the kingdom before returning to Abu Dhabi, where he works as executive director of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.
Mr Al Suwaidi hopes his achievement will inspire a generation of young people to take on their own challenges.
“Whether it is learning a new language or trying to do better at school or just picking up something new, it will be uncomfortable. But once you get out of your comfort zone, that’s when the growth happens,” he said.
“If you really truly believe that you want to succeed or you want a goal or a target, then nothing should stand in your way of achieving that.”