Trail running is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in Egypt, and Wadi Ibex, the first trail running community in the country, is the biggest platform promoting it. Given the popularity of the sport, Sports Events Egypt grabbed the opportunity to speak with Raїd Gamal-Eldin, the founder of Wadi Ibex and an avid trail runner, to know more about trail running in general and how the sport is growing in Egypt through Wadi Ibex and dedicated trail runners.
Discover the beauty and opportunity of trail running in Egypt with Raïd, and see why this endurance sport is worth a try.
Everything Trail Running
Raïd has always been passionate about sports, but trail running is the one sport that could define him as an athlete and a person. Trail running is his true passion. Raïd is at the forefront of the trail running evolution in Egypt through Wadi Ibex.
What’s the main difference between trail running compared to other common types of running like road running and mountain running? Is it much harder and more challenging?
“Trail running is anything that is not road running. There’s road running where you run on asphalt. Trail running is off-road, as we want to call it. So, if you run in the mountains, valleys, snow, mud, sand, desert—anything that is off-road is trail running…We run in the wilderness…outdoors. I would say it’s much less impactful on the body, so it doesn’t hurt your body as much as road running. More challenging? Definitely more interactive because you go up, down, right, and left–there’s no trail the same as the other, but all roads are the same and the asphalts are flat or if I must say, boring. When you run on the trail, you get to see nature and experience wilderness.”
How and when did you start trail running? Was there a trigger? An inspiration?
“It was early 2019 when a group of slightly intoxicated runners were having breakfast and decided to sign up for the MDS, the Marathon Des Sables. We said let’s run the MDS in 2020. Eventually we started trail running training in Wadi Delga Protectorate. This is how it started–running outdoors in a cleaner environment.”
Can you give us some essential trail running tips for beginners and intermediate runners who wish to also accomplish what you’ve accomplished as a seasoned trail runner?
“There’s a misconception about trail running—that trail running is difficult and dangerous. The truth is, trail running is not as hard as people think. You don’t have to be a very tough runner to run trails. You can explore trail running even if you’re not an experienced runner. If there’s any advice I would give to beginners, start exercising, start experimenting. Come over to give it a try. You don’t have to run for hours and hours. You can just start hiking. It’s very easy, but you need to do it regularly. You need to be persistent and consistent about it. The hardest part is getting out of bed, so if you can get out of your bed, you can put on your shoes and hit the trail.”
With the tips you’ve mentioned, do you have any specific or additional advice for those preparing for races such as Marathon des Sables?
“I would say get the right gear and get enough hydration. Put a cap on and charge your mobile phone for emergencies. You would, of course, need to invest in some gear, proper running shoes–trail running shoes, as well as a running vest where you can put everything you need for your run: water, energy bars/gels, electrolytes, etc. You don’t need to buy special trail running gear until you become a very regular trail runner.”
Do you have any list of essential gear and equipment that every trail runner should have?
“The most important thing is the running shoes, the running vest or little bag where you can carry everything, a cap, and your phone—these are the basics that I bring to the trail with me.”
Do you also have a specific workout routine and diet as a trail runner?
“I would say that we’re just like any other endurance athlete, so we watch out for the quality of the food we eat. For quantity–we eat a lot. We use a lot of energy, so we have to regain this energy back. Eat a lot of carbs, protein, vegetables, fibers, and fruits. Leading up to the race, you need to increase your carbohydrate intake. Do some carb loading. But after you work out, recover well and eat enough protein.”
What was your most memorable race or sports event that made you realize that trail running is something you see yourself doing and appreciating for the rest of your life?
“Marathon des Sables was the objective on that end. MDS has been a fantasy for me since I was young. It was the ultimate adventure of all adventures—the ultimate target. But I’ve done other races in preparation for MDS, I’ve done single stage races and Multi-stage 5-day events. The race that made me think that ‘oh this is something I’d like to do or I find challenging’ and I’d like to do more often was in 2019, when I ran the Ultra X Jordan. It’s basically a 250-kilometer race over 5 days.”
Aside from the Wadi Degla Protectorate in Maadi, what do you think is the best trail running location in Egypt or your favorite location in particular?
“Apart from Wadi Delga, our weekly running destination, I really like Fayoum, the lake southwest of Cairo…another one is Wadi El Hitan, which is a natural protectorate where you can find fossilized prehistoric whales. I also specifically like the trail in Saint Catherine—it’s beautiful, you have mountains, valleys and beautiful nature.”
Who is your favorite athlete—or someone you look up to and see as an inspiration when trail running is mentioned?
“Two. A man and a woman. I start with the woman. Courtney Dauwalter. She’s an American ultra runner from Colorado. She’s fabulous. She’s a very nice person. Actually, she made us a video for the team (Wadi Ibex) because one of our members from Colorado met her. It was a very nice gesture. She’s one of the top American international trail runners. Very famous for her long running shorts. For the men, it’s Killian Jornet. A Spanish. He is one of the top international ultra and trail runners. The guy has done everything and won everything. He keeps on amazing us every time he does something new. These two are the top two for me.”
On Personal Life
Raїd is a business executive, serial entrepreneur, SME advisor, father of three, and athlete. His personal life is as colorful as his sports background. Still, he manages to juggle his priorities in his life-work schedule.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of sports? How do you handle them?
“I do practice other sports. I’m a triathlete, I cycle, I swim and I row too whenever I get a chance. Other hobbies—are hiking and camping. I love any outdoor activity.”
With all the titles and roles that you currently have, can you rank the top five priorities in your life right now? And how do you plan to accomplish and juggle them?
“My top priority is my health. Without my health, I cannot take care of my second priority, which is my family. And without these two and the support of my family, I cannot take care of my work. And without my work, I cannot do my passion – trail running. And without these four, I cannot do the thing that I really really like to do, my own personal mission, which is to help others grow and develop. I do this through business advisory and consultancy. My approach is to teach people how to fish–and not fish for them. I helped SMEs, startups, and micro-businesses grow and develop, and I’m very happy to be doing it
What sacrifices did you find the hardest to make for your career in trail running or sports?
“You always have to do compromises because you cannot have it all. I try as much as possible to slot times for everything. And one of the things I learned and has worked very well for me is to partner with the right people. I always choose the right partner before I start the journey.”
What do you do to relax? Especially the things you crave post-recovery or when you’re on a break.
“I go to the beach. That’s the best relaxation I can do.I sit on the beach. I take a dip in the sea. I get back. I lay on the sand. I don’t think of anything. I just unwind. This is the best thing I can do to release any pressure or stress–to go to the beach and do nothing.”
About Wadi Ibex
Wadi Ibex is the first and only trail running team in Egypt. The team promotes trail running by organizing events and raising awareness of the sport. Raïd is the founder of Wadi Ibex team and continues to lead the trail running community in Egypt today.
How did Wadi Ibex become a reality? Why did you decide to start it and what was your mission?
“Wadi Ibex started when we started training for the Marathon Des Sables early 2019. Soon enough, there was a trail race coming up. We thought we can’t go to a race without a team name, a brand, apparel—the whole thing. So we created Wadi Ibex, inspired by the Nubian Ibex that lived in Wadi Degla Valley ages ago. Ever since, the team has become the core of the trail running community in Egypt. Anyone who wants to run trails, runs with us.”
How big is Wadi Ibex today?
“Today, we’re close to 60 runners. We started as a dozen, maybe less. The team is growing. It’s a multinational team, we have runners from Italy, China, Ireland, Brazil, England, the US, and Canada, and needless to mention Egypt.”
What’s Wadi Ibex have in store for trail runners in Egypt today? Are there any upcoming events on the calendar?
“We have many things in the pipeline. The thing I can tell you about now is our next event on the third of September—it’s basically our annual run in the Wadi. It’s called Roody 52. It started as a joke in 2020. It was my 50th birthday and I decided to run 50 kilometers to celebrate it. Word spread out and eventually we had 30 something runners participating. It was a small event, a nice fun run. This year we want to start a new tradition. We, as Wadi Ibex, want to lead our outdoor community—to give back to Wadi Degla, our birth place. So, we’re organizing a family clean-up fun run event along the annual race, to raise funds and help clean up the Wadi. We want to invest in keeping our Wadi sustainably clean.”
What is your vision for Wadi Ibex today? What do you want the organization to accomplish tomorrow or in the future?
“Wadi Ibex will always be the community leader and destination for trail runners. Wadi Ibex mission is to promote the trail running sport and Egyptian outdoors. Our long-term vision is for Egypt to become one of the top 5 global trail running destinations. We are achieving this in collaboration with other stakeholders, partners and collaborators in Egypt.”
Can you give us single-sentence advice for young athletes struggling to reach their dreams in the competitive world of sports?
“I quote Ansari’s post at PowerRide Sports. The English translation is ‘If there is training, there is a Champion; no training, no Champion’. I tell my mates: you put in the effort, trust the process, then you will achieve it. You have to invest to gain.”
Trail Running Motivations From Wadi Ibex’s Raїd Gamal-Eldin is part of Sports Event’s Egypt new blog series featuring athletes in Egypt specializing in triathlon, trail running, swimming, cycling, kitesurfing, and other endurance sports. Watch out for more interviews on our website and social media pages.