Desert challenge

‘First-of-its-kind’ obstacle race held on Ras Tanura beach

Like the Tough Mudder and Spartan DEKA, the Desert Challenge boasted a lineup of hybrid obstacles and functional stations.

‘First-of-its-kind’ obstacle race held on Ras Tanura beach

The beach at Ras Tanura (RT) witnessed an unprecedented event in the world of obstacle races the first-of-its-kind “Desert Challenge.” 


The event, held Feb. 18, was hosted by the RT Community Services and supported by the renowned obstacle race organizations Spartan DEKA and Tough Mudder. 


From 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., the beautiful beach was transformed into an exhilarating racecourse, offering various obstacles that catered to adults and children, with DJ Maggs setting the beat to the day with riveting music. 


What’s in a Challenge?

The race boasted an impressive lineup of 10 hybrid obstacles and 10 functional stations, providing participants a challenging yet rewarding experience. These obstacles were designed to test the physical and mental limits of the participants and push them to their fullest potential. 


The course included a 5-km race for adults, which took them through the beach, dunes, and sandy terrain providing a challenging yet scenic route that tested their endurance and agility. 


There was also a secret 11th obstacle provided by Mother Nature herself. As the contestants approached the finishing line of the grueling obstacle course, they were met with winds that threatened to throw them off course and made it even more challenging to complete the race.


The Desert Challenge was about individual performance, teamwork, resilience, grit, and persistence. The race required participants to work together, support and encourage each other, and push each other to their limits. It was a test of physical strength, mental fortitude, and determination. 


The Desert Challenge brought together participants from all walks of life and different parts of the community, and it showcased the beauty of the beach and the surrounding landscape while providing a challenging and exciting racecourse for participants to test their skills and abilities.


As the race progressed, the audience cheered for and encouraged their favorite participants. The competitive finishes were a sight to behold, with participants giving it their all in a bid to cross the finish line. 


Thousands descend on RT

The event was a huge success, attracting more than 5,600 community members, with 1,048 adults and 516 children participating. The high turnout symbolized the community’s celebration of health and well-being and the importance of sports and physical activity in achieving a healthy lifestyle.


The event was a platform for participants to challenge themselves, push beyond their limits, and achieve their goals. The obstacle course challenged participants to push their limits, step out of their comfort zones, and embrace the spirit of adventure.


For children, the event was an excellent opportunity to develop their physical and mental abilities, learn the values of teamwork, resilience, and perseverance, and embrace the spirit of sportsmanship. The obstacles were designed to be age-appropriate and challenging, allowing children to test their limits and learn essential life skills in a fun and engaging environment. 


The event was a huge success, exceeding all expectations and leaving a lasting impact on all those who participated. 


The following are reflections from a few participants:


Alex Yoon: “I was determined to participate this year.”

Alex Yoon, a member of the Exploration Department, recently participated in the “Desert Challenge” in Ras Tanura. 


In preparation for the event, he engaged in a combination of running and cycling. Unfortunately, despite being among the first to complete the challenges, he lost his tag in the sand.


Yoon is a seasoned athlete who has participated in sporting events for several decades. He has participated in various swimming and cycling events, but did not participate in the Community Championship last year and only watched. 


It looked like a lot of fun, so I was determined to participate this year.
— Alex Yoon


Despite losing his tag in the sand, Yoon enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to participate in the Desert Challenge. 


He said: “It’s certainly great to come to what is effectively a Tough Mudder or a Spartan race here in Ras Tanura. I just want to say it’s a great event. I’m really glad that we’re doing it here and I hope we can do more over the years.”


Simone Less: First Spartan race experience

Simone Less, who works in the Research and Development Center Department, enjoys running in the afternoon, but this was his first time participating in a Spartan race.


He occasionally goes to the gym but has been eager to participate in this event for some time. 


“Typically, such events are held in other countries or areas, such as Riyadh or Bahrain, making them difficult to access,” he said.


Last year, Less also participated in the Community Championships, finishing second in the main 10-km race. 


Unfortunately, he will not be able to participate this year as he will be out of the Kingdom. He advises anyone interested in participating in a race like this to be prepared, especially for the unexpected.


Duncan Dewes: Creating a fitness hybrid

Duncan Dewes, an organizer from CIB Sports, shared insights on the “Desert Challenge” event. CIB Sports operates various fitness and sporting brands such as DEKA, Tough Mudder, and SPOT in the GCC region. 


According to Dewes, the Desert Challenge is a hybrid event combining fitness and obstacle racing. Due to limited space for a long-distance race, the organizers decided on a new format for the event.


Dewes said that the idea for the event came from discussions with Matthew Williams, a sports consultant for Aramco. The objective was to create an event that would challenge people’s fitness levels while still being achievable for entry-level participants. 


The business has been operating in Saudi Arabia for the past two years, focusing on the Tough Mudder brand. They have held events in Jiddah and Riyadh, and will be in Al Ula next year.


CIB Sports is currently analyzing the Desert Challenge event to determine if they should brand and market it as a new Saudi-based brand that they can take to the GCC, Europe, and the U.S. In addition, they plan to develop permanent facilities for community-centric events that operate for about eight months of the year.


Dewes emphasized the importance of starting a sport and practicing it regularly to become great at it. He encouraged young people to find something they enjoy and give it more attention. The CIB Sports team strives to be environmentally conscious by exploring sustainable materials, including 100% recyclable T-shirts.


Habib Al Haq: Overcoming obstacles in life and on the course

Habib Al Haq, who works for the Northern Area Gas Producing Department, has been with Aramco for almost nine years.


In the past, he has participated in desert challenges in Dubai and Europe, and is pleased that the community is now holding similar events, including a 5-km run with 10 well-designed and challenging obstacles. 


Al Haq has participated in a Community Championship and placed in the top 10 in Ras Tanura. He has also participated in races in other locations, such as the Riyadh Half-Marathon. 


He believes that events like these are not just about winning or losing, but overcoming obstacles and encourages others to participate. He compares the obstacles in these events to the challenges we face in life.


Kai Laurent: Challenging and enjoyable

Kai Laurent has been living in Ras Tanura for nine years. She recently participated in the “Desert Challenge,” which she found very enjoyable and well-organized. Despite initial concerns about the course markings and station support, the event was similar to those her friends had done in other countries.


When asked about her preparation for the event, Laurent mentioned that she does CrossFit and weightlifting a few days a week. Although she had never participated in this challenge, her teammates were experienced and impressed with the event’s organization.


She recommended the challenge to others, noting that it is not necessary to be extremely physically fit, but to go into it willing to be challenged and have fun.


Ibrahim Eid: Young athlete proves determination

Twelve-year-old Ibrahim Eid attends Dhahran Middle School and is passionate about sports, which led him to completing the 5-km adult obstacle course at the “Desert Challenge.” Despite not having specific training for the event, he powered through and even made it through the most challenging part of the course.


When asked about his participation in the adult competition instead of the children’s event, he said that although he felt tired throughout the run, he was determined to finish.


Ibrahim is now considering joining the Community Championship next year and wants to inspire other young people by telling them they can do anything they set their minds to, even if they think they cannot.


Reynold Ransom: Newly arrived Aramco employee’s wife embraces challenge

Reynold Ransom is a Gas Facilities Department employee in Upstream who joined the company in late September. 


Ransom’s wife, Dionne, arrived in Saudi Arabia just one week ago. She is an experienced participant in events such as the Spartan and Tough Mudder races in the U.K. So, when Ransom saw an advertisement in Dhahran for the “Desert Challenge” event, he knew it would be perfect for his wife and registered her for the challenge before she had even arrived in the Kingdom.


Dionne was delighted with the event, particularly the chance to run on sand, which provided a different challenge from the concrete courses she was used to. She found the assault courses manageable and enjoyed the great atmosphere and music at the event.


The couple stayed in one of the sea suites, with their 6-year-old daughter, where they spent the night and enjoyed the area. 


Dionne believes it is important to get out and enjoy events, visit other camps, and go out for dinner to make the most of the opportunities available.


Caption for top photo: Organizers and others associated with the Desert Challenge pose on site in Ras Tanura.


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