Al Hilal Publishing & Marketing GroupPO Box 1100,
Kingdom of Bahrain
Click here for Contact Details
Driven Deena Rahman has notched another achievement to her action-packed sporting career as she recently completed an ultra-marathon in the UK in golden style.
The Bahrain international footballer finished sixth in the women’s category of the 100km London 2 Brighton Challenge, an accomplishment which Deena says is near and dear to her heart.
“London to Brighton has a personal significance to me,” said the 36-year-old who lives in Saar. “I grew up in Fulham and Putney just down the road from the start point in Richmond and the route took me past some significant places like the Fulham FC training ground in New Malden where I spent my pro days training and my family now live near Brighton so it was like running to our new home.
“An ultra has been on my bucket list for the last couple of years so I’m delighted to tick it off!”
This was Deena’s first ultra-marathon as the longest distance she had ever run before that was a 42km marathon. She ran one in Bahrain and another in Dubai.
The ultra-challenge started from leafy Richmond to sunny Brighton across High Weald and the South Downs. It was considered a tough route with more than 1,400m of climbing across the full 100km. However, organisers believed the runners would be rewarded with incredible views of the countryside before the final climb over the South Downs with the coastline in view.
There were rest stops with toilets, medics, massages, changing rooms and snack areas with beverages every 10-15km and the finishing line was located down the home straight of the Brighton Racecourse.
The event is regarded as one of the UK's greatest endurance challenges and is attempted by 3,000 people every year. Most of them will walk the course, many jog parts of it and around 500 actually attempt to run it all the way.
Deena jotted herself down as a runner on a mission to finish. “Since last summer, I wanted to get back in shape following a lengthy injury the season before and even when I played for the national team in the military World Cup in June 2018, I was frustrated that I was heavy and unfit,” said Deena.
“My mission became so much easier when I had goals to keep me going - a season playing Gaelic football, the West Asia Cup in January for Bahrain, the ladies season for Muharraq Club Tekkers, complemented with a few running events and the last one being the night Half Marathon in March.
“Therefore, I knew I had a good base fitness but for an ultra you really need to cover distance and that’s what I was missing from my training plan. Losing weight was my other season goal and nutritionally I have just tried to keep a balanced diet.”
In the lead up to the race, Deena did a week of light runs to keep her going and took on more carbs then she normally would.
On the night before the run, she woke up with a raging sore throat and didn’t get much sleep. She was a little apprehensive about what she was about to do, however, she got herself ready and was still excited to get going.
“Being a very competitive person, what I loved about going in to the ultra was that my goal was to finish it and I didn’t put any pressure on myself do it in a time and I really didn’t know what to expect from the route or myself,” she said.
“Ironically, I only put myself down as a runner as opposed to a jogger/walker because by the time I registered for it the only start time I could get was 9am or the runners starting at 6.45am … and I just wanted to get going.
“Runners are predicted to finish between nine to16 hours but it didn’t matter if you went over that time, so I had nothing to lose. The cut off time to complete it was 36 hours. In my mind, if nothing went drastically wrong my worst case scenario was I would be walking the majority of it.
“It was cloudy but quite warm and the run itself was an amazing journey. There were 10 stops along the way at various distances with refreshments and toilets and at each one you had to check in, there was a live app for friends and family to track me along the way.
“As I got running I found a good pace that remained comfortable and at the early check points I probably spent about 10 minutes max filling water and grabbing some snacks or going to the toilet before moving on.
“Focusing on the next check point helped me mentally cope with the distance and I remember going past the 42km check point and thinking ‘wow I’ve just done a marathon and it feels like nothing right now as I’m not even half way there’.”
Deena found the hardest part was after crossing that 42km point and running until the 56km mark. She began to get achy and tired. “I was in an unknown zone of running distance for me,” said Deena.
“The hills were coming more often and I was on my own for quite a while during this time. At 56km, which was the biggest stop, I was able to get my transfer bag, restock my running bag and I had some friends there. Although I could feel my legs getting heavier it’s like I had a second wind and off I went again.
“By now I had noticed most people around me were walking up the hills and I realised this actually was better as different muscle groups were used and then on the flatter parts I would run again.
“It took some getting used to as starting to run again after you have walked is hard work but once I got the rhythm going it continued with me until the end of the run.”
At 67km, Deena was met by her mum, Dawn, sister, Heba, and her mum’s partner, Mark. They informed her that she was currently in sixth place and that Number 7 wasn’t far behind.
Her competitive side soon kicked in and she was determined that the runner behind wouldn’t catch her. “I couldn’t believe I was even in that position,” said Deena. “Towards the end, I got running with three other men and with a final uphill push into Brighton race course I had completed the 100km.”
It took Deena 13 hours and 24 minutes. She was sixth out of 484 women and 39th out of 1,200 participants.
Deena said: “I was extremely drained at the end. My legs were heavy but I was just buzzing from the whole experience and a massage and hot food at the finish line was just what I needed.
“Heba and I had a real laugh about our expectations of what I needed and when I would need picking up. I had a torch in my bag from the start as we weren’t sure I would get to the 56km before dark.
“She was going to leave her car for me and I had the key in case I was there in the middle of the night, otherwise she would meet me at the finish Sunday morning. However, it was 8:30pm Saturday, still day light and we were sitting there having a chat after I had finished. Overall it was a surreal day.
“I would like to thank everyone for their support.
Deena received ‘lovely messages from friends and family’, some followed her progress on the app. Her husband, Paul, and fellow coaches at the Tekkers Football Academy she owns, made sure the business was running smoothly whilst she was away.
Deena is the second runner from Bahrain to complete an ultra-event. As reported in GulfWeekly, Dutch expat Ernst Jan van Manen finished the Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race in January and finished the 103km course in 24 hours, 21 minutes and 12 seconds.
Deena has made the headlines too for her work helping to promote women in sport. She has participated in two successful Guinness World Record attempts for playing at the highest altitude football match at the top of the 5,895m Mount Kilimanjaro in 2017 and at the lowest altitude at the Dead Sea in Jordan in 2018 as part of the Equal Playing Field (EFP) project aimed at paving the way for equality in sport.
She is now jetting off to France where she will participate in a new record-breaking attempt in having the most players participating in an official match as part of another EPF initiative.
It will be held in Lyon during the women’s World Cup in France. The Festival of Football is set to start tomorrow with 3,500 players taking part over five full days.
The current record is 2,357 people, over four days (playing non-stop). The match will be 11-a-side and will run continous;y with players playing at least one hour during the match.
The #hashtag for this mission is #anygirlanywhere.
After the football Deena has more personal challenges to meet.
“I would like to do the Great Wall of China Marathon next year,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to do so after another season playing with the Arabian Celts in the Senior League now that we have just got promoted, then I can call myself an ultra-marathoner.