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JEDDAH: The historic district of Al-Balad was the scene of a remarkable spectacle on Saturday as thousands of runners, both male and female, from Saudi Arabia and other countries took part in the Jeddah half-marathon 2024.

This event, a major highlight in Saudi Arabia’s running calendar, was the first of its kind held through the scenic streets and landmarks of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It showcased the grit, determination and enthusiasm of Jeddah’s runners.

More than 3,000 participants from national and international backgrounds joined the event, competing in the 21 km, 10 km, and 1 km categories across different age groups.

The 21.1 km route began at 6 a.m. in front of Al-Balad’s historical gate, Bab Jadid, taking participants past iconic landmarks such as Nassif House, Al-Matbouli Museum and Al-Juffali Mosque.

Other races included a 10 km run for participants aged 12 and above, attracting enthusiastic runners of all ages, including children and the elderly. Additionally, a 1 km walk was open to participants of all ages, including those with special needs or disabilities, receiving maximum cheers from the crowd.

Runners gathered early in the historical area. Marathon arrangements included facilities such as medical points, hydration stations, food trucks and entertainment programs within the race village.

Enthusiasm was palpable as top runners from more than 15 countries enjoyed the scenic beauty of the city’s sights while competing.

Organized by the Saudi Sports for All Federation and Historic Jeddah Program, the half-marathon aimed to provide a fun and accessible way for amateur athletes and families to experience Al-Balad’s rich culture and history through sports.

Anwar Algoz, from Morocco, clinched the first prize worth SR18,000 ($4,800) in this year’s half-marathon, covering the 21 km category and crossing the finish line in 1 hour and 6 minutes.

Afterwards, Algoz, who recently secured third place in the Riyadh Marathon, told Arab News: “It’s not my first half-marathon in Saudi Arabia. Despite the intense heat today, I pushed myself. Halfway through, I felt I could make a move, and in the end, I increased the pace, securing the win. I’m thrilled to have won this race today following my third-place finish in Riyadh.”

Getting to the starting line was a new challenge for Prince Sultan bin Khalid Al-Faisal. Speaking to Arab News after finishing the 10 km race, he said: “Actually, it is a great experience in old Jeddah, and what makes it more exciting is seeing all those people involved in this marathon. For me, it is the first experience, and I found it very thrilling and exciting.”

Prince Saud bin Turki Al-Faisal said: “I’ve done it before, and just watching all these enthusiastic amateurs and professional athletes running together is so wonderful. I believe all of them are winners.”

He added: “It was a very interesting experience, and the location itself added an exciting atmosphere to go through these historical monuments located in the historical area.”

Ola Altaib, a medical student, expressed her happiness at participating in this marathon. “Running through the streets of old Jeddah is an incredibly invigorating experience that is unmatched,” she said.

At the end of the race, runners were greeted by cheering crowds, and the most thrilling moment for them was crossing the finish line.

“Tired but super happy,” said one of the oldest runners, Hamid Al-Ahmri, who came all the way from the southern side of the Kingdom after completing the 10 km category. “I am so glad I made it, and it feels great to cross the finish line.”

Hatoon Kadi, a YouTuber, said: “Experiencing the marathon was wonderful. Old, young, male and female runners were there; it was so nice to see them joining the marathon for their own health. I will repeat it again, and it is going to be a yearly habit.”

The event concluded with the distribution of prizes and medals to the winners and participants.

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