100 kilometres of run in Dubai desert is a hard challenge. It is so difficult to imagine how one can achieve this venture. Yet a man, Nico de Corato has managed to achieve this goal.
Six months before the run, Nico held a meeting with Max Calderan founder of the Desert Academy. That meeting played a key role in the 100 km challenge.
Thanks to significant support by Max, Nico started to have several training sessions in the desert of the Rub Al Khali, a 50 km solo run at night with a 10kg backpack and a 100 km run.
100 Kilometres: After the completion of Nico’s first 42 km desert run, Max Calderan launched the big challenge which he named “Big Jump”.
So the preparation started, not just training, but also nutrition, advice, tips to control the feeling of thirst, hunger and sleep deprivation, needed for such a long and difficult race. Thus the right itinerary and the date for race was put to plan.
At first, the Rub Al Khali was considered, where many training sessions were staged. The Rub Al Khali, “the fourth empty,” is the second largest sand desert in the world. It covers a third of the Arabian Peninsula and it touches, in part, the Abu Dhabi Emirate.
The race was to be started mid November, as soon as temperatures became milder, at least for this first attempt. In July the training was carried out with temperatures as high as 52 degrees, but 100 km is a different story…it’s a lot of kilometres.
After various meetings the project blueprint was set out: running 100 km for the 44th UAE National Day. December 2nd marks the celebration of the unification of the seven emirates in 1971. This date is celebrated annually and allows the United Arab Emirates to think about its past, present and future. The date commemorates the rich heritage, the civilization and perseverance of the UAE to progress in all sectors. This is a special day for all UAE residents.
Meydan Hotel group supported Nico in his venture offering logistic facilities at start and end. The start was on the 1st of December at midday from the Meydan Hotel and racecourse, a prestigious location that also hosted the Dubai World Cup (the richest horse competition in the world).
Arrival was expected on the following day, December 2nd National Day, at Bab Al Shams, a fantastic desert resort, after 20-24 hours. Nico and Max liked the idea of this itinerary from the present (hotel, facilities) to the origins (desert), to celebrate where that place where everything began.
Finally, the special day arrived. After a few pictures taken, the second stage started at 12 o’clock sharp. It was decided for Nico to start the run in the warmest hours, thinking that it would have taken about 20/24 hours. This way Nico would have faced the hardest part while still full of energy.
And, in fact, the beginning was the hardest part of the run: leaving the city means crossing streets and highways, not the greatest landscape at times. Within 10/15 km the road begins to be surrounded by sand. It’s getting more difficult in a way, but better for the articulations especially on long distances. The first few hours were also the hottest, so it became essential to manage the energy expenditure and prevent dehydration and early tiredness. Kilometres go by, slowly. More and more sand…less asphalt. After approximately 8 hours Nico was halfway, almost easily. Two bottles of water, some dates and a couple of refilling along the route. Better than he expected.
The 50-km mark was in correspondence to Inflight Dubai where a forty-five, sixty minutes rest stop was planned. Some food, water and rest for the muscles, the articulations and especially the mind. After the rest Nico wore warmer night outfit and set off again.
The break helped. Nico ran the next 10 kilometres to the following checkpoint (the night is the most critical moment, therefore checkpoints are set every hour or 10 km. He also had a car support) in less than 55 minutes. There were no longer paved roads, and Nico was well into the Al Lisali area. A short stop and then he left again. Ten more kilometres went by quickly. Nico was at 70 km through the run; he couldn’t believe it! He started to feel tired (above all mentally). It was a better landscape compared to the city, but it was dark, and he couldn’t see anything but the rare headlights of a few cars stopping to see if they could be of any help . Some just said ‘Hi’ or “Salaaaam.” It was dark, pitch dark and the road seemed to go forever. The moon helped in not having to use a light but its rhythm was slowing down and Nico started to get tired and he alternated fast walking to running.
17 hours and 40 minutes have gone by, and no more but 10 kilometres to reach the end. Nico was elated. But the last 10 kilometres were endless. A long file of lights that were off due to the hour of the day were separating him from the end. Sometimes he stopped for a few minutes leaning on a palm tree or a rock to rest his legs and back, even just for a few seconds. He was not cramping, bu this back hurt all along. Nico continued walking for a few hundred meters, and he stopped again briefly. Time went by, and he was at 20 hours. Some trucks and cars went by travelling to Bab Al Shams or towards the horse-riding centre. He was on the verge of asking for a ride. He had no points of reference and he didn’t know how far he was. But suddenly a car driven by Willem Duplooy, sports and recreation manager of the resort, who had come looking for him, arrived and honked, reached him and screamed “ You almost made it, don’t give up!”
At this stage his mind had the signal, and Nico started running again for the last 2/3 kilometres. The last part of the run went uphill, but he finally saw the sign to the hotel reception a few meters away. He made it. 100 km. 20 hours and 10 minutes. He couldn’t help crying.
Nico, exhausted but excited by the venture, passed next few hours enjoying breakfast, spa, a break, and lunch with friends. Everything seemed surreal. He still couldn’t believe that he had really made it. He spent the afternoon at the Bab Al Sham resort where a small celebration was organized as a tribute to Nico and his achievement. He wore the running outfit again and re-ran the last kilometre for the official ribbon cutting.
He felt almost no pain and he could still run up and down the dunes around the resort. One hundred meters to the end, He heard the speakers announcing his arrival, and the people applauding…a nice feeling for a non-professional athlete. He was so thrilled when Willem presented him with the Emirates flag.
So determined, Nico de Corato has proved that all challenges, no matter how difficult, can be achieved.