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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 14:03 GMT
Man triumphs in race against horse
desert in UAE
Much of the UAE is featureless desert
By the BBC's Julia Wheeler in Dubai

A long-distance runner has beaten a leading endurance racehorse over a distance of 80 kilometres in the United Arab Emirates.

Forty-two-year-old Tom Johnson from the United States won by about 10 seconds despite his four-legged opponent, Al Barraq, galloping the final 16 km of the course flat out.

endurance horse race in UAE
Rules say horses should have two 40-minute breaks
The runner and jockey had always said it was going to be a close-run thing but neither had predicted there would be only a few seconds between them after a race of five hours 45 minutes.

The plan was for the horse to take two 40-minute breaks for food and water - as specified by rules ensuring the fair treatment of animals in endurance competitions - giving Johnson an effective head start of 80 minutes.

Unlike the horse, he could eat and drink while on the run.

In the event, even though the second of the horse's breaks was cut in half, Al Barraq and his jockey, Jennifer Nice, failed to catch the runner.


This is believed to be the first competition in the Middle East, where endurance racing is becoming ever more popular.

Sheikhs of the ruling families compete both in the Emirates and abroad and take great pride in their home-grown Arabian horses being able to demonstrate such prowess.

But on Wednesday it seems it was human spirit and determination that won the day.

On Thursday, Johnson will be helping on the course in a different way when his wife, Marcia Smith, takes part in the prestigious President's Cup endurance horse race over 160 km.

This time it is just for horses.

See also:

30 Jan 02 | Horse Racing
Record entry for Dubai World Cup
28 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: United Arab Emirates
19 May 00 | Middle East
Dubai royals dominate endurance race
04 Jun 00 | Wales
Man beats horse in race
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