The DWR has been a major event in the UAE sporting calendar since its inception in 2008.
When Dr Harmeek Singh first arrived in the UAE as a printing press employee, he was paid a salary of Dh2,750. Today, he is the owner of eight companies spread around the world and a pioneer of the Dubai Women’s Run (DWR) which has impacted countless lives since it began in 2008.
“Dubai is what made me who I am,” he told Khaleej Times. “I grew up with the city. And what I love about Dubai is that it gave me equal opportunities. They respected me for the work I did and I never questioned my origins, my ethnicity or my religion. If you have what it takes to succeed, this city and its people will support you.”
Dr. Harmeek’s time in business began with the organization of the DWR. With experience in events and armed with the desire to empower women, he came up with the idea of a women-only race. “Even at that time, Dubai and the ruler His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum were very ahead of his time and were very actively advocating women’s empowerment,” he said. “So when I approached the Dubai Sports Council and other authorities, I got immense support almost instantly.”
Now in its 10th edition, the DWR has been a major event on the UAE sporting calendar ever since.
For Sandi Rich, 71, this will be her fifth year participating in the DWR. “My first fitness trip to Jordan in 2006 brought home the bitter truth that she was woefully out of shape,” she said. “I realized that I was a ‘burden’ for the team, that I was dragging them down. I felt horrible, ashamed and realized how terrible it was to depend on others to help me just because I was irresponsible with my physical condition, my health and my well-being. “I promised I would never be dependent because I wasn’t in shape.”
Since then, she has been working out religiously and is a regular at DWR. “She participates in the race because I enjoy the camaraderie, the community spirit, the exercise routines and the preparation for the event. It’s not about arriving first; It’s about finishing the race and not giving up. “It’s my feeling of accomplishment.”
If 200 women participated in the inaugural edition, this year more than 5,000 women are expected to run. For Kifah Sbeitan, who has participated in the event every year since it began, the race is an important message. “Thus the event promotes unity and participation over competition or victory, highlighting that the only way to improve is by competing with ourselves,” she said.
For Dr. Harmeek, it is the stories of the participants that keep him going. “This year I met a Spanish lady who was obese and depressed when she participated in her first women’s race,” he said. “When she was able to finish the race, it was a big boost to her ego. Today she has participated in three Ironman competitions and is a marathon runner. These stories reinforce my belief that I am on the right path. Changing the old saying a bit, I enjoy being the man behind several successful women.”