Thousands turn out for Cairo half marathon event

Cairo’s fitness fanatics were up early on Friday morning to take part in the city’s second annual half marathon event.

The race, organised by local running group the Cairo Runners, took place at Cairo Festival City, a development on the outskirts of the capital. There were three options for runners to choose from: the 21km half marathon, a 7km race, and a 1km family run.

Excitement built before the races kicked off as numbers gradually increased, and organisers said that there were even more entrants than the 4,000 who had initially registered.

Ahram Online caught up with Mohamed El-Sawy, a former culture minister, at the forefront of the waiting runners just before the race begun. ‘It’s the most important sports event of the year,” he said

El-Sawy said he had run in last year’s event too, and enjoyed the spirit of the event.

"This is how sports should be integrated into the society,” he said.

With cyclists leading the way to show the route, the runners were off. Men and women of all ages and different backgrounds could be spotted pounding the track.

A number of sporting and charity initiatives were manning booths around the marathon route. Representatives from local charity Alashanek Ya Baladi, which had a prominent spot, told Ahram Online that half the proceeds of the event would be going to the needy.

Jubilant runners who made it across the finishing line were happy to receive a certificate from the event’s organisers.

“The event is amazing! It’s the first time I have taken part in a half marathon, and it’s amazing for it to be in Cairo,” Scott from Canada told Ahram as he reached the end of the race.

Other participants were just as enthusiastic about the benefits of the early morning jog.

Rania Sobhi, a doctor who runs regularly with the Cairo Runners, attributes her lifestyle change to the group. “Since I joined them, I learned how to wake up early, exercise and lead a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

Tamer Darwish, another running enthusiast, was not able to participate on Friday because of a knee injury, but insisted on joining the crowds at the finishing line to watch and cheer. “I wouldn’t miss the excitement and positive atmosphere for the world,” he said.

As the three runs came to an end, participants gathered near the main stage erected near the finish line, where they were treated to a number of shows, including one display of parkour or free running.

Crowds were treated to an appearance by television satirist Bassem Youssef, who took to the stage to talk about his own healthy lifestyle choices.

"I thank those young people who let me run among them. I’m going to be forty in a couple of weeks," he told the crowd.

The popular satirist, who is known for his political comedy that squewers those in the public eye, told a rapt audience that he had recently become a vegetarian, and credited the diet change for his newfound energy.

"Whether you choose to be a vegan or not, make healthy choices in regard to your nutrition," he told his fans.

Another local celebrity to delight the crowds was Omar Samra, the first Egyptian to reach the summit of Mount Everest and winner of a global contest that will send amateurs on a brief flight into space.

Samra, who urged a delighted audience to follow their dreams, announced the winners of the 7km race while El-Sawy announced the names of those who had won the half marathon. Runners Hanaa Gouda and Moharram Hamdallah took the women’s and men’s prize in the 7km race, while Ayah Abdel-Rahman and  Mohamed Rabeea took the first prizes in the 21km competition.

After prizes were awarded, the event closed with a performance of local band Like Jelly.

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