01 July 2014, 7am
Dhiraagu Maldives Road Race
Fri 6 June 2014
The country is a collection of 1200 small coral islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, 600km southwest of Sri Lanka. It boasts magnificent waters of all shades and tints of blue and white sandy beaches. Being the lowest country on the planet, with its highest point only 2.4m above the high-water mark, it is a champion in global warming advocacy. Every year over a million tourists flock to the country, more than triple the permanent population of 350,000, just to enjoy the sunny side of life.
In the Maldives, you look for complete calm and tranquility on a resort island, and running a distance race may be the last thing on your mind. Instead, you might picture yourself sipping a fresh coconut as you soak up the sun while lazing on a pristine white sand beach, or in a hammock under the shade of a coconut palm, a gentle breeze embracing you and the serene rhythm of the waves taking you to the land of nod.
For the adventurous traveler, the Dhiraagu Maldives Road Race opens up new possibilities. It is the perfect way to get a taste of local life in the capital city, blend in with local people and absorb the characteristic hustle and bustle of the liveliest city in the Maldives. Dhiraagu, the largest telecom operator in the Maldives, organizes the race every year. Not only does this race give you the opportunity to run along the beautiful coastline of the capital city in one of the most exotic and unique nations in the world, but by participating you help to raise awareness of a pressing social cause. This year the race was dedicated to help protect children and funds generated will be donated to six local NGOs endorsed for the event. Every year the event brings together people and communities from all corners in the country. It is the largest race held in the Maldives and has now been held for eight years.
This year’s race opened new avenues for international participation. It is the first AIMS-certified race in the country. Three thousand runners signed up for the race, representing 32 different nationalities including Japan, United States, Australia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Russia, Mali, Mexico – all running for a single cause, to help protect children.
The race begins at the Surf Area in Malé city, commonly known as “Raalhugandu” among the locals, which means “surf spot”. Thousands of people, children and families gather here to enjoy the festivity of the event, including children’s games, stalls for different activities, local music and food.
The run is an adventure, the warm Maldives air embracing you. While you start the race with the rapid cadence of the Surf Point waves on one side, and the laughter and excitement of the mass on the other, a few metres down the road, you find yourself alongside the beach that caters a third of the Maldivian population. Moving on you pass by the ferries that take you to the nearby island of Hulhumale, and the airport. Past the green patch of Republic Square you are engulfed in the aroma of fresh fish from the fish market while locally-grown fruits and vegetables greet you from the busy markets. Further on lies the Maldives Customs and Maldives Ports Authority, the maritime gateway and the business hub of the country. After many more boats and high-rise buildings, and past the “Dharubaaruge” convention centre you will find that you have absorbed the unique charm of a tiny island capital city, a blend of everything, all in a fleeting moment.
You come back to the surf spot after having conquered the course, officially certified as 10,000m. On one side you have the welcoming waves and on the other the crowd, celebrating your victory. On a warm day in June, even at 32ºC and 80% humidity, the runners radiate an air of contentment. The crowds cheer the elite runners and locals alike, while the six NGOs rejoice in their hopes and aspirations for a better generation of Maldivian children.
You finally catch your breath and relax after the run. The beach is mere minutes away, where you could take a quick dip in the calm waters, or you could head off on another adventure, but this time hopping on a boat to take you to a quiet island of your choice. After all, there is no better place to relax than the Maldives.