Minivan News yesterday took part in the sixth annual Dhiraagu Broadband Road Race, alongside 2,500 other enthusiastic competitors.
Local telecoms company Dhiraagu initially started the event in 2007 as a way of promoting healthier lifestyles for Maldivians. The road race was organised in collaboration with the Athletics Association of the Maldives who conducted the timing.
Organisers and participating charity groups set up the start/finish area at the Raalhugandu surf point area, hoisting flags, painting a finish line, and working hard to ensure the event would get off to a smooth start.
The Minivan team began to have doubts about its preparations after checking the official road race website. Practising before the event was the first of the tips given to race entrants. Minivan’s preparations for the race consisted largely of having written an article about it six weeks before.
Hundreds of locals gathered at Raahlugandu to see the runners off. Competitors were provided with t-shirts, isotonic drinks, visors to keep the sun from their eyes, and even small flags, bearing the sponsor’s logo, to carry round the course.
Team Minivan brought with it a notoriously bad back, a cracked rib, and only two pairs of running shoes between three people.
As the runners assembled at the start line, the event’s organisers worked the crowd, calling on everyone to raise their hands and cheer to show their support for the event’s main theme – the campaign against child abuse and domestic violence.
The race began at 4:30pm, skirting the five kilometres around the outside of Male’. Crowds thronged the initial few hundred metres, cheering the runners on as the contenders for the cash prize were quickly separated from the ‘also-rans’.
The prizes included Rf 8000 (US$520) for first in the professionals group and Rf 5000 (US$325) for the winners of the amateur categories – under 40s and over 40s.
Five minutes into the race at Republican Square, Minivan’s ‘also-rans’ decided it would be a shame to run past one of the cities’ more scenic areas and slowed to a walk to enjoy the surroundings. Further on, the smell of the fish market prompted the team to pick up the pace once more.
A number of local NGOs and charity organisations used the event to publicise their causes. Child Abuse Prevention Show (CAPS) and Advocating Rights for Children (ARC) were present, raising awareness on childrens rights. Educating the attendees on women’s right were the General Advocacy Working Group (GAWG), and Hope for Women.
Whilst dodging oncoming traffic at the halfway stage, the Minivan team were prevented from catching a taxi after realising they had left all their rufiya at home.
At around 4:48pm the top contenders for prizes rounded the corner by the tsunami monument as the crowd roared its approval for Male’s top runners.
Meanwhile – or perhaps a little later – at around three quarters of the way round the course, the Minivan News team was forced to stop for reasons that were, again, in no way related to their lack of physical fitness. Accounts of this section of the race are blurry but the team did resume running after being overtaken by the same small boy for the third time.
The oldest participant in the race was 57 years old, whilst the youngest was just five years old. Mohamed Mazin became the first blind runner to complete the race. Mazin received training from Mohamed Hanim, whose nine year old daughter accompanied Mazin round the course. The Maldives Blind Association was also present at the race staging area.
Upon running past the ‘stop-speeding’ poster on the southern section of Boduthakurufaanu Magu, the Minivan Team became confused and opted to halt its break-neck pace once more, walking for a section whilst it considered its legal obligations.
At the finish line, grateful runners were provided with more water, energy drinks and fresh fruit to re-energise. Those not competing in the race continued to soak up the atmosphere – children to small to take part were entertained with balloons and face-painting.
Nearing Dharubaaruge, the Minivan News team, drawing on its reserves and spurred on by the crowd, pushed on to cross the finish line at around the 37 minute mark. The race rules stated that 45 minutes was the maximum time allowed to officially complete the race.
Minivan hopes to use its surplus of eight minutes to win next year’s race which it, alongside all those who participated in yesterday’s race, will be very much looking forward to.
The official results for all the categories are expected to be announced on Monday.