The Desert Road Runners (DRR) is a running group operated and licensed by Hopatec Sports Services (DED license number 683845).
Formerly known as Dubai Road Runners, Desert Road Runners was founded in 1989. It is the oldest running club in Dubai. The annual 10 km race has been held every year since 1991.
In 1994 the weekly club meeting known as “The Predictor” was started by John Hunter, a member of the club. The format was very simple. It was a time trial around the outer perimeter of Safa Park. Each runner could elect to run either one or two laps against the clock, 3.4 km per lap. Each runner predicted their own time and closest to prediction won a prize. The Predictor was held every Saturday evening.
John Hunter left Dubai in 1995 and was succeeded by John Nolan as Coordinator of DRR. John Nolan was a former member of the Irish National squad and he set the records for one and two laps of the park. In 1997 Jonathan Lament set the records for one and two laps of the park as 10:38 and 22:01. They have remained unbroken ever since.
When Graham Rafferty arrived in Dubai in September 1996 he joined the and took his 11 year old son Matthew to the Predictor meeting. At the time the Club was quite small and had no junior runners. There was initially some hesitance in allowing Matthew to run. However, after a while he was joined by friends and the numbers of juniors increased. The friends brought their parents along and the club grew.
In 1998 John Nolan sustained a knee injury which ended his running career. He asked Katrina and Graham Rafferty to takeover running the club. They have been coordinators ever since April 1998.
The club was still a small, close knit group of runners and did not appear welcoming to new members. So concentrated on opening the club up. The membership grew and from 20- 30 attendees at the weekly predictor the number rose to 60 and then 100+. Most of the runners come as families, parents plus children.With the re-development of Safa Park the predictor was re-located in October 2014 to the new track on the beach.
In the early days the only rival club in the Emirates were the Abu Dhabi Striders. They had faster runners but lacked the depth of numbers.
In 1998 the Club introduced the Iftar Challenge. Up to that time no events were held during the month of Ramadan as no water could be consumed during daylight.
The Iftar Challenge was introduced as a race over a short course timed to finish at sunset. It initially started as a challenge event between and Abu Dhabi Striders. However, the depth of numbers weighed too heavily in favor of , so the format was changed to being a straight race. The first venue for the event was Dubai Country Club. Other venues have included Jebel Ali Sailing Club, Emirates Golf Club, Rashid School, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Creek Park, Mushrif Park and the Dubai Autodrome. As Dubai has grown in size and become busier it has become too dangerous to hold events on the roads hence the migration to the parks and the Autodrome.
The first Iftar Challenge was held in the Month of February. By 2010 Ramadan had moved back to August and it was decided to make the event an early season fixture to be held in September every year.
The 10km race was for a long while the only straight race in Dubai. It was joined by the Iftar Challenge in 1998. Now there are at least 10 races in Dubai a year. Up to 1997 the 10km race was held on the roads from the Chicago Beach Hotel. The Hotel was replaced by the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the 10km race moved to the Sheraton Hotel in what is now Dubai Marina. Development there forced the event to be moved to Nad Al Sheba. It remained there for several years until the race course was developed into the Meydan. The home for the event is now the Autodrome. In the early days the event was always won by members of the Ukrainian national athletics squad, who would stay in Dubai for winter training. Winning times of 30 to 33 minutes were typical.
Before 2000 the events were straight races with prizes for the first 3 men and first 3 women to cross the line. Age group categories were introduced and older runners were attracted to the club. Now as many as 25% of the regular membership are over 50 years old.
During the last decade a number of improvements have been made using new technology. An e-mail listing was established in 1999. The Web Site was started in 2002. The use of a lap top computer to record and process race results was started in 2003. Prior to this it would take more than an hour to process the results after an event. In latter years chip timing and on line registration for events has become the norm. The club got a boost in 2001 when Dubai Municipality laid a permanent running track around the perimeter of Safa Park.
Up to 2004, the only other running club in Dubai was the Dubai Creek Striders. They specialized in marathon training and met every Friday morning. The two clubs complimented each other well share a large over lap in membership. The Mirdif Milers were the 3rd club to start, catering for runners in the Mirdif vicinity. ABRaS AC, started in 2008 as an athletics club. Other small running groups have sprung up on the back of the success of running in Dubai.
Up to a 2006 race entries for any event were less than 200. However, such is the popularity of running in Dubai now entries have jumped to 700+ and many events are closed to entries weeks before race day.
One of the oldest running events in the Emirates is the annual Wadi Bih relay. It was first held in 1993. It takes place on the Musandam peninsula and involves a team of 5 runners covering a distance of 70 km in the Haj mountains. In the early days victory in this event eluded. The Abu Dhabi Striders won the event with their faster runners. The first victory came in 2002 with a team consisting of Pieter Bezuitenhout, Andy Jennings, Peter MacKenzie, Mihal and Nikky Harradine. This event has also grown in recent years. 200 teams now take part and more than 30 individuals.
WHY JOIN DRR?
The format of the club makes it attractive to beginners. Some have gone on to become first class runners. Antonio Di Somma started his running career with the club in 2004 at the age of 49. In 2009 he won his age group in Dubai, London, Copenhagen and New York marathons. In the same year he was 2nd in Berlin and 3rd in the World age group championships.
Nikky Harradine started running with in 1999 and was the winner of the first Dubai Half Marathon in 2002. Nikky set female age group records for lapping Safa park in the early days which stood for nealry a decade. Another club member, Barbara Young, was the winner of the first Dubai marathon in 1998.
Junior members have also gone on to do well. Carina Rodd represented Britain in the world triathlon championships in 2009. Elizabeth Bird is ranked in the top ten 1500m runners for her age group in the UK.
The club has retained a policy of being open to everyone, regardless of race, age or ability. The membership is informal and there are no club rules which restrict members in any way. Any member of another running club is welcome to attend the weekly predictor.
The aim of the club is to promote running at all levels. As well as the club events sponsors inter school events.
Desert Road Runners organize around 5 events per a year from September to April.
All of Desert Road Runners events have categories for juniors as well as veterans and super veterans.
The club is non-profit making and entirely dependent on the services of volunteers.