In a proud moment for Qatar, a 35-year-old Everest Marathon record was broken by Z Adventures, a Qatar-based adventure travel company that has successfully organized the highest trail running event on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
The Uhuru Peak Challenge, held on July 15, consisted of four events; the V1000, half, full and ultra marathon. A strong group of 30 runners representing 12 different nationalities landed in Arusha, the gateway to Mount Kilimanjaro, on July 8th to take part in this grueling adventure race on the ‘Roof of Africa’.
At 5,895 m, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain on the African continent and also the highest free-standing mountain in the world. The group consisted of some very experienced marathon runners from all over the world and also some beginners who signed up for this adventure.
After the obligatory trek briefing and equipment check, participants began their 5-day acclimatization trek to the summit – the Kilimanjaro trek involves trekking through 5 different climate zones to reach Uhuru Peak. The Bushland Zone is the first part of the climb, taking runners up to 1,800m. The next day, participants hike through the rainforest zone to camp at 2,800m. Day 3 of the hike takes runners through the moorland/heath zone while camping at 4,000m for the night. After that, the two toughest parts of the journey begin as they reach the Alpine Zone at 4,980m to prepare for the start of the races.
The first race was V1000, a 1,000m vertical climb through the arctic zone to Uhuru Peak. The V1000 course has been certified by the International Skyrunning Federation and is considered the highest skyrace in the world.
Over a 4.3km course, runners climbed 1,000m from 4,980m to 5,895m to reach the top of the mountain. This was no ordinary feat as the runners endured freezing temperatures, thin air and altitude sickness as they made their way to the top of the summit. Jack Haug from Switzerland won the men’s competition, while Tamina Vogel from Germany took first place in the women’s competition.
Once at the top, runners lined up for the usual summit pics at the top of the peak before starting the next race; the half, full or ultra marathon. Exhausted and cold, they slowly began the next stage to run down the mountain hoping to finish the distance and be part of the historic record event. Certified by the International Trial Running Association, the course was not for the faint of heart. The downhill race included rocky terrain, slippery slopes and sheer elevation changes as they ran through all 5 climate zones in one day to reach the bottom of the mountain to complete the race.
The youngest member of the group, 17-year-old Scottish runner and World Spartan Age Group Champion, Harvey Mitchell-Divers, won the men’s half marathon event in a time of 3:22:58 while Tamina Vogel finished as the winner 1. female. In the marathon and ultramarathon it was an all-Swiss win, with Jack Haug winning the ultramarathon and Alexander Scherz the full marathon. Cara Nelson of the USA won the women’s marathon race.
It was a life-changing experience for most runners, and even the most seasoned marathon runners found the race to be the toughest of their running careers. Guinness World Records has recognized the three races as the highest altitude half, full and ultra marathons, breaking the 35-year-old record of the Everest marathon.
Through the successful organization of the race in partnership with Kiliwarrior Expeditions, Z Adventures now holds six Guinness World Records for high altitude running events.
In 2019, they organized the world’s highest half, full and ultra road marathon at Khunjerab Pass, Pakistan at 4,693m. The company organizes marathons in more than 40 countries and on six continents. In Qatar they organize more than 30 events annually as part of the Qatar Running Series with regular events in various parks and trails.
The outstanding performance delighted Ziyad Rahim, the mastermind behind Z Adventures, to no end. He himself holds 10 Guinness World Records in long-distance running and is the first athlete in the world to run an ultramarathon, full marathon and half marathon on every continent.
Speaking to Gulf Times, Ziyad said, “The Uhuru Peak Challenge was a tough undertaking and it took me two years to plan and successfully complete the race. Being the world’s highest running event, a thorough risk assessment was required. I am so proud of all runners.”