By Richard Slater
RIYADH — Thomas Schneider and Claudine Roghi were crowned Gulf International Bank (GIB) Riyadh Marathon champions in an historic race at Ranco Farm last Friday, which saw a record number of individual marathon finishers for the fifth year in succession. In the team race, the 2017 champions were Gareth Gallagher and Kristoffer Ahlin.
At dawn on Friday over 200 runners and spectators gathered in the south of Riyadh and readied themselves for the ultimate physical challenge — 42.2 tough kilometers with five trips up the infamous Ranco hill. A select group of runners headed out at 6 a.m. to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and to ensure they made the final lap cut off. The wild winds of Thursday night had knocked down the start line and wreaked havoc elsewhere on the course, however the committee calmly dealt with all challenges faced to organize an excellent race which started on time and was enjoyed by all.
In the male race, Thomas Schneider took the lead after the first few kilometers, and never looked like relinquishing it. Having run an excellent time at the Dubai Marathon last month, Schneider knew how to pace himself and store some energy for the final cruel kilometers. Behind him second place was a battle between David Ferry and the season’s most consistent athlete, Sam Richards. However Richards fell victim to a mystery foot injury after 33 kilometers, which unfortunately led to him having to pull out of the race. Abdulwahed Al-Murshidi capitalized on Richards’ bad luck and clinched the third step on the podium.
Other notable performances came from Rod Woodward, who at age 59 beat his previous PB by 16 minutes, Kenthly Avelino who ran his third consecutive Riyadh Marathon and also clinched a personal best time. Finally Mostafa Elashery, the champion junior athlete, completed his first ever marathon.
In the female race, reigning champion Claudine Roghi knew she would face stiff competition from the club half marathon champion Dobrawa Skupniewicz. So it proved, as Dobrawa chased Roghi for the entirety of the course, eventually finishing a mere four minutes behind the indomitable Roghi, whose victory was all the more impressive as she had run a 100km race in Ras Al-Khaimah the previous week!
In third place was Katy Taylor, the ironman triathlete showing that she has maintained her excellent running form. Just behind her were Kedibone Matlala and Mia McDowell, who both put in highly creditable performances. Lastly a special mention must go to Ayesha Ismail, who at age 64 was the only senior female in the race, and managed to beat her 2016 time by over 30 minutes. The team race was won by Gareth Gallagher and Kris Ahlin, who put in dominant performances to win by a huge margin. Ahlin completed his half marathon in 1:23, running away from the field and almost sealing the victory before his teammate had even begun. When Gallagher took over, the gap to the second placed team grew yet wider, the Irishman smashing his PB and competing the course in an outstanding time of 1:18:08. Their combined time of 2:41 is the quickest seen at the Riyadh Marathon in many a year.
The club would like to thank the multiple sponsors — Gulf International Bank, Burj Al-Hamam Restaurant, Carrefour Tala Mall and Mawaddah charity — for their generous contributions to the race. RRR is delighted to be able to give a significant donation to Mawaddah, an organization which worked to reduce the negative effects of divorce in Saudi society.
Male race: 1. Thomas Schneider (GER) 3:16:21, 2. David Ferry (GB&NI) 3:19:05, 3. Abdulwahid Al-Murshidi (OMA) 3:22:48.
Female race: 1. Claudine Roghi (FRA/NZ) 3:40:40, 2. Dobrawa Skupniewicz (POL) 3:44:12, 3. Katy Taylor (GB&NI) 3:53:56
Team race: 1. Kristoffer Ahlin (SWE) and Gareth Gallagher (IRE) 2:41:30.