Spartan Races, Volcanoes and Weightlifting
Marwa Al Wadhahi
My name is Marwa Al Wadhahi. During the day, I have a full-time desk job in the energy sector. In the evenings and weekends, I’m a passionate sport and adventure enthusiast, dedicated athlete, weightlifter and part-time coach. I really enjoy trying new things and taking on challenges. The crazier a challenge sounds, the more it draws me in...
My passion started very early. As a kid, I was hyper - I loved playing, exploring and doing sports in school. PE and Maths were my favorite subjects and I enjoyed participating in school competitions. Although I wasn’t really involved in sports during my studies at university, I never missed any of the annual sport days. After graduating in 2013, I began work and in parallel I started exploring gyms, sports and classes.
I took a wide variety of classes, from HIIT to Core, Zumba, Yoga, Bootcamp, Kickboxing and even Taekwando. In 2016, I started doing Crossfit and Pole Fitness. In the same year, I climbed my first big mountain abroad: Mt. Damavand in Iran, a potentially active volcano 5600m high, highest natural point in the Middle East and the highest volcano in Asia. My preparations involved a lot of stair climbing, continuing my fitness classes and increasing the frequency of my training from three days to six or seven days a week, doing multiple of classes a day to test my endurance. This caused an addiction to physical activity and I didn’t want to reduce the frequency of training after the mountain, I was just hungry for more challenges!
That year, I also did my first Obstacle Course Race (OCR) - Spartan Race. It was new to Oman, a Sprint distance of about 6.5 km with 24 obstacles in Jebel Sifah. I saw the advertisement and was immediately excited to give this new challenge a try. It was hot, tough, new and I didn’t have the skills or knowledge to tackle all obstacles but that didn’t stop me from pushing myself to the finish line.
In 2017, I continued taking part in competitions, starting the year with Muscat Marathon where I did my first 10 km running race. On the adventurous side, I summited another mountain abroad: Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 meters above sea level. Most notably, I was honoured to get the opportunity to be part of three individuals representing Oman during the Spartan World Team Championship at Lake Tahoe, California, USA, for the first time ever. This was another crazy challenge for me, as I was almost a total beginner, competing in a totally new environment, very cold weather unlike the Middle East, two long races, with new obstacles, long distances that I never did before, against the worlds top elite athletes in the sport from around the globe. Although I was scared and uncertain, I pursued this opportunity fiercely and was proud to be a finisher surviving the crazy race weekend and left with fond memories of the truly enriching experience.
From there, I have continued doing OCRs and am thrilled to have led and empowered numerous women's teams over the past three years. I love sharing what I learnt and supporting others who dare to have such immense dreams.
As a Crossfit athlete, I always loved developing and mastering skills. Weightlifting is part of this sport and I always felt my snatch lift technique needed improvement. This led me to approach, and subsequently join, the Omani Weightlifting National Team. My original intention was to improve a skill (the Snatch Lift) but, to my surprise, I was the first Omani female ever to join the Weightlifting National Team. Initially I was the only woman training among 20+ guys, but it didn't matter - I was improving and learning and the men were nice and respectful. I started to find more women to join the National Team and within three months, four Omani women including myself made history representing Oman as female weightlifters in the Gulf and West Asia Championship. We were thrilled with how well we did, collectively achieving 24 silver and bronze medals, an amazing feat considering the limited time and training before doing our first competition. I loved the sport and felt honored to represent my country and open the door for women to weightlifting in the national team.
But my story didn't stop there. I kept seeking more challenges, a few recent ones worth mentioning include:
- The gruesome OmanByUTMB 50 km Trail Run across the beautiful but tough Omani Hajar mountains. I was the second Omani Female Finisher.
- The Epic Ironman70.3 Muscat (2 km Open Water Swim + 90 km Cycling + 21 km Run) where I was one of two brave Omani women doing the race for the first time ever.
- And various Crossfit, OCRs, mixed challenges in the region...
On a different note, 2019 was a year in which I undertook multiple courses, developed my knowledge and started my coaching journey. I completed a weightlifting judge course to become the first Omani female weightlifting judge. I then completed a Crossfit Level 1 trainer course, followed by a Level 2 Gym Instructor Course and finally completed an Intermediate Pole Instructor Certification Course.
I’d like to end with some advice. Be fearless pursuing what you love, no matter what criticism you're met with, as long as you believe what you are doing is right and it makes you happy. Believe in yourself, you can achieve far more than you know. Uncertainty, fear and doubt are normal and are part of the journey, they are obstacles you are bound to encounter and overcome, so don’t let them stop you. Whenever I sign up for a new challenge, I am terrified, but I still make it. Be brave enough to seek support when you need it. Finally, don’t be afraid to be different, doing things others don’t typically do, starting something new and uncertain!