We did not create Qatar East to West, It created us
In the summer of 2017 while 4 young men were having a Yemni breakfast in a Doha restaurant after their Friday morning run, one runner (Abdu) went "You know, my friend Stefan just ran from Dukhan to Doha, it was around 90km. I think it would be cool if we can attempt the same thing"
The 3 other guys went "YEAH, right..."
Convincing the three other runners wasn't a tough job as they had no clue what they were doing at that point ... Neither did Abdu.
The newly formed team started spreading the word among their running friends from DBRC (Doha Bay Running Club), surprisingly a considerable number of runners showed interest, guess they too had no clue what they were doing.
DBRC was the biggest and the oldest running club in Qatar that was founded in 2011 and is still running strong.
Eventually the total number of interested runners reached 50 runners which made the original 4 runners think (Well, we can't run now as these 50 people will need some support and security during their uncalculated attempt to run across the country) Which was kind of a relief for the team since supporting runners throughout a 90km run doesn't take as much fitness as running it. How hard can it really be to hand out someone a banana?
Trying to Make It a Race
For the following 4 months the team tried to make it an official event and get some sponsors interested but the idea was still too young and too un-understandable to be trusted and supported. In addition to that, ultra running as a sport wasn't very popular in Qatar at the time so sponsors -understandably- didn't see a point in supporting such an idea.
The team had a decision to make. Do they call the whole thing off or go forward with it and do it as a "friendly" run?
Driven by the love of adventures, the baseless belief that this challenge has the potential to become something big one day and the growing interest in the running community, the team decided to go forward with the run and hope for the best.
The team also decided that all the runners were going to run together for as long as possible to make it easier for the "organisers" to manage the race with the little logistics they had available which wasn’t a great news for the runners, you don’t want to stick to someone else’s pace for 90km, but they agreed anyway.
After realising that it wasn’t going to be an official race, almost half of the people who had originally signed up for the challenge decided to drop off. The unpleasant news wasn't all bad to the organisers since it meant that the team's job became slightly easier given how little experience they had at that point.
The Route and The Date
The next challenge for the team was to design the run route. Even though you can run the 90km in a straight line from the beginning to the end, the team thought it wouldn't be safe for 25 runners to run together on the main roads of the city and in the same time they didn't want to attract too much attention as the last thing they wanted is the run being cancelled because they are interrupting traffic. So the team decided to take some detours that resulted in having to run an 8km off-road stretch behind what later became (Mall of Qatar) to then reach Dukhan Highway a few kilometres before Shahaniya city, the next city after Doha towards the west.
They also decided to start the run at 5am on the 15th of December which was a Friday where traffic is at its lowest inside Doha.
There were no registration fees required for the challenge, the team felt guilty charging people who were going to run such a long way, but runners voluntarily decided to contribute to the cost of the challenge which was a beautiful gesture that showed the true nature of runners .. well, soon to be ultra runners.
Running such a long distance won't be possible without volunteers who would set up aid stations, provide medical care, and possibly pick up runners who might not be able to finish the distance. The organising team reached out to other members of the running community and their own non-running friends and eventually were able to form a team of volunteers who were an essential part of the success of the challenge. It was amazing to see some volunteers who had never run in their life getting out of their way to spend the weekend in the desert supporting people they had never seen before accomplishing a goal they couldn't really comprehend when they first heard about it. Another reason why the world of running is very special.
On Friday the 15th of December 2017 at 4:30am there were 25 runners standing outside Costa Cafe at Doha Corniche getting ready to do something they had never done before. Those 25 runners were the seed of what later became the first Ultra running race in Qatar, (Qatar East to West Ultramarathon), usually referred to as (QEW).
At 5am, all the runners, volunteers and organising team started a very long day that didn't end until 10:45pm with the last runner reaching the western coast of Qatar at Dukhan beach.
Not only did the people involved in this day plant the seed for the biggest running event in Qatar, they also made friendships and memories that will last forever.