Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

From Dead to Red

An Egyptian makes history in an ultra-marathon sea to sea race, reports Ameera Fouad


He ran 242 kilometres in the record time of 30 hours without stopping in the Dead to Red Racing Championship in Jordan.

Mahmoud Dehis, 45, is an Alexandrian who holds more than 20 national and international athletic titles, racing across the globe.

Last week, Dehis became the first Egyptian to run the Dead to Red Racing Championship which started from the Mujib Bridge on the shores of the Dead Sea, all the way up to the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea, a distance of 242km.

“The last race in Jordan was the toughest of all,” Dehis said. “I never imagined myself running such a long distance before. I ran in Norway, Spain, Italy and in Jordan several times but it was my first time to run 30 hours continuously with no sleep and with no stopping.”

The race entails many big challenges no runner can easily meet. It’s not just about being physically fit to run a fast pace but to adapt the body to certain amounts of food, drink and sleep. These remain the most important aspects of running for Dehis.

“It is figuring out how to drive your body and mind farther than they’ve ever gone before, without slipping into unconsciousness or hurting yourself. It is figuring out how to push yourself constantly through hours on the road, often solo, fuelled by your willpower. It is the moment when you cross the famous Demon village in southern Jordan and you keep uttering Quranic versus because of the fright.

“I trained for three months with my trainer, coach Hamdi. I used to run four hours in the morning and five every night for three months. As the race approached, we doubled the hours, then tripled them. But we never reached 30 hours.”

An ultra-marathon, also called ultra-distance or ultra-running, is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres.

Dehis claimed 14 titles in the 100km Egyptian Pharaonic Marathon since it was established in 2000. He has run in various parts in Egypt, ranging from Luxor in Upper Egypt to the Mediterranean coast in Lower Egypt. At every phase in his life he sought a radical new challenge that made him one of the most renowned Egyptian runners of all time.

“The most difficult part of the race was the whole race,” he laughed, starting from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. “Therefore, the entire race was a gradual ascent to sea level.”

Though Dehis lost his way twice, he was able to rejoin the race to finish a stunning third with the cheers of the crowd everywhere.

Dehis never imagined that he would become Egypt’s No 1 ultra-marathon champion with certificates and medals crowning his little house in Maamoura in Alexandria. He was a professional football player in the Arab Contractors and Ittihad of Alexandria until the age of 25 when the head of the athletics team at Geyad Club asked him to run a 100 metre race, in which he finished in the first five.

Back in 1996, the slender Dehis was the oldest runner in comparison to the youngsters on the national team. “When I ran the 100 metres and I found myself at the top of the field, I told myself ‘why not?’ Thus, I started running longer and the more the distance, the better my pace would be,” he explained.

“Having sponsors like Petrotrade (the oil and gas services company) I never bothered about any expenses. It helped me to travel many parts and to compete internationally in Norway, Spain and Morocco. I ran in places with extreme temperatures where it was minus 35 and in others where it was above 50 Celsius.”

Concerning the cult of running which has been spreading in recent years in many governorates in Egypt through groups like Alex Runners and Cairo Runners, Dehis said he runs with them every week. “Not many people know that these groups are helping to bring to the forefront many good runners who are able to compete nationally and internationally.”

Dehis has never stopped dreaming about holding a number of ultra-marathon races in Egypt which can bring many international players from different parts of the globe to the country. His next dream which he shares with many ultra-marathoners is to bring the sport to the Olympics where he promises to get Egyptians the gold medal.

“I also have a dream for the children’s championship I hold twice a year. I want to make it more competitive and to bring more sponsors and advertisements so that those kids from impoverished areas can have a chance to become Egypt’s up and coming running champions.  

“I know in my heart I will make it come true.”

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