Mohamed Reda El Aaraby targeting place on world marathon podium

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Moroccan athlete who finished 11th at the Sapporo Olympic marathon aiming for a medal in Budapest

Mohamed Reda El Aaraby wants to follow in the footsteps of Moroccan athletics greats by creating more history at next month’s World Championships [August 19-27].

The 33-year-old, who is an ASICS athlete, is targeting a place on the marathon podium, the event which closes the athletics programme in Budapest.

If Reda El Aaraby achieves that feat then he will be the first Moroccan to land a medal at the championships since Jaouad Gharib became a respective back-to-back world marathon champion at Paris 2003 and Helsinki 2005.

Inspired by finishing 11th in the heat and humidity of the last Olympic marathon, held in sweltering Sapporo, and second at the much cooler and hillier 2021 New York Marathon, Reda El Aaraby believes anything is possible in the Hungarian capital.

AW caught up with Reda El Aaraby out at ASICS’s Chojo Camp Europe, the brand’s first European pro-athlete training centre in Font-Romeu.

Mohamed Reda El Aaraby in Font-Romeu (Albin Durand)

“I feel good both physically and mentally,” Reda El Aaraby tells AW. “I hope that I can continue without any injuries or problems and that I can put my name in amongst the big athletes in the marathon. I want to be with the leading pack and finish on the podium. For now it’s time to work and train hard to get that.

“I achieved a big result in finishing second at the New York Marathon and 11th at the Olympics. That gave me the confidence to work and train hard and the aim is to get a medal in Budapest.”

Reda El Aaraby has a marathon personal best of 2:06:55 from Paris last year and clocked 2:09:06 to finish only behind Kenya’s Albert Korir in the Big Apple two years ago.

He was also just nine seconds off from being inside the top ten at the Olympics when he ran 2:12:22 in Japan.

Such experiences on completely different courses is motivation for Reda El Aaraby.

The Moroccan’s high altitude training in Font-Romeu has also proved the perfect setting ahead of Budapest with long runs around the lake (Lac de Matemale) and woods in Bolquère.

“For Sapporo and New York me and my team created specific programmes for each of those events, factoring in the course and weather,” he says. “That started in the training camp before and we wanted to make sure that I had the best preparation for those marathons.

Mohamed Reda El Aaraby at 2021 New York Marathon (Getty)

The opportunity to train in Font-Romeu is very special and it’s amazing to meet athletes from different countries and disciplines. We all train in the same place and ASICS have helped give us this opportunity to improve our level and help our confidence and preparation ahead of big events.

“ASICS have helped me train at modern facilities here and they work to support us so that we can achieve the best possible result. That gives me the confidence to do something special in the future.”

Morocco achieved one medal at last year’s World Championships in Oregon, courtesy of Soufiane El Bakkali’s incredible gold in the 3000m steeplechase. El Bakkali was given a hero’s welcome on return to his home nation and Reda El Aaraby knows what a place on the podium would mean for those watching back in Morocco.

“We want to make ourselves proud and make sure our nationality is recognised as one of the top running nations in the world,” he adds.

“For us, in Morocco, El Bakkali has helped give us the confidence that we can train hard, represent our country in the best picture and produce good results. We want to inspire the young children to get into the sport so that they can dream about performing at a high level in the future.”

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