Michael Lobo, 70, laces up his running shoes for milestone Dubai race

UAE resident originally from Bangalore has run the city’s half marathon for the past 20 years

Michael Lobo participating in the Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon. Photo: Michael Lobo
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Most people would be forgiven for making a cup of tea and putting their feet up after reaching their seventies.

Michael Lobo, however, is lacing up his shoes for the 20th anniversary of the Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon — a race he has competed in every year since it started.

Now 70, Lobo has competed in almost 150 marathons and half marathons around the world and still effortlessly runs the 26.2 miles (42km) in less than four hours.

Currently, the father of one from Bangalore is running up to 70km a week ahead of the race around Deira on January 22, which he hopes to finish in about an hour and 40 minutes — although he has another full marathon in Mumbai to tick off first.

Despite running marathons in Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Berlin and more, it is hitting the streets around his home city that inspires him most.

“I moved to Dubai in the early ‘80s and the only skyscraper I’d see on my runs back then was the World Trade Centre,” says the Deira resident, who works as a sales manager.

Michael Lobo, left, with Dubai Creek Striders founder Malcolm Murphy. Photo: Michael Lobo

“It was like running through the desert. I’ve watched the city grow and transform for almost 40 years as I’ve run through its streets. This run means more to me than timings or personal bests.”

Lobo’s first memory of running was when he was just five years old in his hometown of Kolar, India, where he would chase the local donkeys.

“Back in those days the laundry would be delivered by donkey, and I remember chasing after them in hopes of a ride,” Lobo says.

“If we ever did catch them the likelihood was that they wouldn’t let us ride them anywhere, but the thrill was always in the chase. I started running for the fun of it and that’s still why I run today.”

Lobo kept up his running throughout his studies in Bangalore and continued pounding the pavements in 1984 when he moved to Dubai.

“Dubai Creek Striders running club was founded in 1995 and I joined in 2000 after spotting them running along Zabeel Road,” Lobo says.

“There’s a great sense of camaraderie with other runners and making it into a social activity brings me a lot of enjoyment. It’s not a competitive thing for me. The times don't matter, I do it purely for enjoyment.”

Despite his modesty, Lobo leaves his often considerably younger competitors for dust with stats that a man half his age could be proud of.

His personal best marathon time is three hours, 53 minutes and seven seconds, while his best half-marathon time is one hour, 40 minutes and 51 seconds — a mere 41 minutes slower than Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah, whose personal best is 59 minutes and 32 seconds.

So how does a man his age manage to run 70km a week?

“I have a very positive outlook on life,” Lobo says. “I don’t know whether that comes from running or if running changes my mindset.

“I once had a running coach who told me: ‘No matter how tired you are, just believe something wonderful is going to happen’.

“It’s how I try to live my life on and off the track.”

The approach has served Lobo well over the years, despite facing his share of challenges.

“One of my most memorable runs was in 2013 when I ran a full marathon in the rain and was left burning with fever,” he says. “I just plodded along as best as I could, but I made it to the finish line, thankfully.”

This year’s event is not just a milestone for Lobo, but for the entire running community, according to Dubai Creek Striders chairman, Chirag Shah.

Michael Lobo and other Dubai Creek Striders members on Murphy's Bench, which was erected in honour of club founder Malcolm Murphy. Photo: Michael Lobo

“Dubai Creek Striders is the oldest, biggest and the only registered non-profit running club in Dubai,” he says.

“Our primary goal is to encourage a healthier lifestyle and we are open to all runners, irrespective if you're just starting out or just running to finish your first 10km race.”

This year, Shah is expecting 2,500 runners with a further 2,500 spectators cheering them on in what he calls one of the “most scenic half marathons in the world”.

The route starts at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club and follows a figure of eight shape around Dubai Creek, with a shorter 10km route also available.

And Lobo, with 37 marathons and more than 100 half marathons under his belt, is more than ready to take his place on the start line, although it will be far from his last.

“I haven’t raced in South America or the polar regions, but I don’t see why they can’t be next,” he says. “If you have the right attitude, you can do anything.”

Updated: January 06, 2023, 6:02 PM
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