Omar El Sawy: From Cairo's Startup Scene to UTMB Glory

Omar El Sawy: From Cairo's Startup Scene to UTMB Glory

How fast can someone go from a beginner to an elite trail runner? For Omar El Sawy from Cairo, Egypt, the answer is an astonishing 25 months.

In just two short years and one month, Omar went through a remarkable transformation. He evolved from a dedicated but desk-bound startup entrepreneur in Cairo who often found himself working late into the night, into a passionate trail runner, ultimately reaching elite status in the world's largest trail running race.

A mere two weeks ago, Omar stood at the starting line in Chamonix, surrounded by over 2,700 of the world's finest trail runners. He was eagerly awaiting the commencement of the UTMB event—a grueling 172km odyssey around Mont-Blanc, featuring over 10,000m of elevation gain.

After 27 hours and 58 minutes of relentless effort, Omar triumphantly returned to Chamonix amid a chorus of exuberant cheers from the assembled spectators.

Remarkably, he emerged as the fastest runner from the entire Arab world, surpassing numerous renowned international athletes with UTMB index exceeding 800. 

This achievement is truly astounding considering that just 25 months earlier, Omar was deeply engrossed in his senior management role within his startup B2B venture, MaxAB. It was only after a brief hiatus to summit Kilimanjaro that Omar decided to enter a 60km trail running race in the Egyptian desert. Despite enduring physical discomfort throughout the race, Omar was astounded to discover that he had clinched third place—a triumphant debut that ignited his passion for the sport.

This initial success motivated him to push his limits further, embarking on his first 100km trail running race in Zumberak Ultra—a grueling event encompassing 103.4 km and featuring a staggering 5,230m of elevation gain. Although the race proved exceptionally challenging, Omar completed it in 22 hours, crossing the finish line as the second-to-last participant.

The formidable physical and mental demands of ultra trail running only fueled Omar's determination to become faster and stronger. Applying his engineering acumen and methodology to his training, nutrition, and recovery strategies, Omar made the bold decision to step away from his daily operational role and fully immerse himself in the world of trail running. Additionally, he co-founded Wadi Ibex, Egypt's largest trail running community, and an event management company called Ultra Ibex, with the goal of nurturing the trail running scene in his home country.

In his quest for excellence, Omar sought professional coaching from American ultra runner Jason Schlarb. His unwavering commitment and tireless efforts soon bore fruit as his trail running performance began to soar exponentially.

In August 2021, he secured a 434 UTMB Index in his first 100km race, achieving over 500 points in his second race within two months. One month later, he notched a 550 UTMB Index in his third 100km race.

By July 2022, he had successfully completed his first 600+ UTMB Index race in the Val d'Aran by UTMB CDH (100km) Category.

In December 2022, he journeyed to Thailand to tackle his first 100-mile race, finishing 25th overall in Doi-Inthanon by UTMB with a remarkable 660 UTMB Index.

In May 2023, he stood up on the podium finish Top 5 in George Mountain Ultra Trail 100mile category.

In June, he achieved a UTMB Index exceeding 700 for the first time in Trail Andorra by UTMB, securing the 9th position overall in the 50km category.

Three weeks ago, Omar realized his long-cherished dream—the UTMB final.


As the resonant notes of "Conquest of Paradise" filled the air, the sweat he had shed over the past two years for his dream transformed into boundless energy, propelling him forward at his own steadfast pace. It's worth noting that in any 100-mile race, challenges are a given. Midway through the event, Omar grappled with gastrointestinal issues, rendering it impossible to adhere to his nutrition plan. 

Guided by his rational engineering mindset, he made the prudent decision to slow down, preserving his physical well-being while maintaining a reasonable pace. His rigorous training regimen in the lead-up to UTMB paid dividends, keeping his muscles resilient. After resolving his stomach troubles and resuming calorie intake, Omar swiftly regained momentum, finishing the race with impressive vigor.

As friends of Omar, we've had the privilege of witnessing his meteoric ascent. Our paths crossed in the Aran Valley in the summer of 2022, and again in Thailand at year's end. This summer, prior to the Andorra race, he temporarily relocated to our home in Spain, where we lived and trained together for several weeks. It was during this time that Omar was introduced to NEDAO, a brand he hadn't previously encountered.

Omar's meticulous approach to selecting his racing gear underscored his commitment to excellence. Hailing from Egypt's perennially warm climate, Omar prioritized breathability, quick-drying capabilities, and lightweight performance in his sportswear. Although initially drawn to NEDAO's QIFLOW series for its ultralight, quick-drying fabric, he spent a significant part of the summer rigorously testing and acclimating to NEDAO's sportswear. Ultimately, he made the resolute choice to don a complete set of NEDAO gear for the most pivotal race of his life—the UTMB final.

Post-race, Omar generously shared his experiences with NEDAO outfit:

"This summer, I extensively wore NEDAO's running top and shorts during countless long-distance training sessions, ensuring that every aspect in contact with my skin was meticulously crafted. It provided unparalleled comfort throughout the grueling 30-hour ordeal of a 100-mile race, without any concerns."

"NEDAO's Nanoshield fabric in the waterproof jacket performed exceptionally well. A few weeks ago, during training in Annecy, I found myself caught in a sudden mountain storm—hail, fierce winds, torrential rain, and temperatures plummeting more than ten degrees lower than during the UTMB's nighttime segment. I relied on this jacket to weather those extreme conditions, keeping me dry and maintaining my body temperature. Following that experience, I resolved that, despite being slightly heavier than the priciest ultralight waterproof jacket on the market, it was indispensable for the security it provided on the UTMB course."

"NEDAO's Merino wool top is also exceptional, adept at regulating my body temperature: it keeps me warm in the cold and aids cooling when the mercury rises."

"A hat, often overlooked by many trail runners, proves immensely useful. It offers insulation in frigid conditions and shields from the sun's scorching rays in hot weather, all at the modest cost of added weight. Even when not needed, it takes mere seconds to stow in your backpack."

Omar's meticulous gear testing underscored the notion that exceptional hundred-mile runners must master every facet of their sport. After sharing his life and training regimen with him this summer, I've come to appreciate that, in the world of ultra-running, talent pales in comparison to diligence, discipline, and relentless effort. Sweat and triumph are the great equalizers.

Looking ahead, Omar's aspirations remain crystal clear: following his UTMB conquest, the Oman 100km race looms large as his most significant challenge this year. A highly technical race that draws elite athletes from across Arab nations, Omar openly harbors ambitions of standing atop the podium in Oman. In the coming year, his primary objective is to return to UTMB, aiming for a sub-25-hour finish time.

"I didn't begin running until my thirties, and I never envisioned myself as the world's best runner, akin to Jim Walmsley," Omar confided in me, "But that doesn't deter me from training with unwavering determination to become my version of an elite athlete, to be the finest version of myself." 

This representation of the NEDAO brand's ethos serves as a poignant reminder to honor the unsung heroes—ordinary individuals who radiate their unique brilliance. NEDAO runners aren't solely fixated on speed; they embody unwavering determination in their pursuit of goals and continuous progress.

As we celebrate the remarkable feats of world-class athletes during UTMB's dazzling week, let's also extend our applause to individuals like Omar, who may not often grace the podium or secure commercial contracts. They are the true warriors, tirelessly chasing their dreams, much like the rest of us.


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1 comment

A man with a mission and a drive from within can move mountains. Go Omar & Nedao GO!!


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