Tataouine Jurassic Marathon Goes Back To The Future
Ouma is an Arabic word meaning “swim in the sea”, a concept that Nejib Belhedi is pushing constantly in Tunisia. Belhedi’s Ouma initiative is his means to encourage people in Tunisia, especially the children, to begin and enjoy swimming in the sea.
“I want the younger population in Tunisia to get back to good habits,” explains Belhedi. “We are doing relays as an outreach strategy to get people interested. All kinds of people: fast, slow, non-swimmers, and handicapped swimmers. We want to next generation to intermingle with the last generation so there is an inter-generational exchange combined with team work and discipline.”
Belhedi is not only taking ouma to the next generation along coastal cities of his native Tunisia, but also to the desert communities across his native land.
In a nationwide campaign, Belhedi to going from shore to shore, from sea to lake. “I am attempting to cultivate the swimming passion to take root in the next generation. I swim with kids, all kids without exception. They learn to work as a team while also striving to reach their potential.”
One of his next ouma events is the Tataouine Jurassic Marathon. “With imagination, the kids can swim across time, the desert and the Sahara. During Ouma of Dunes 2014 from November 7th to 15th, swimmers enjoy swimming in natural lakes of oasis. We will use a swimming pool of Tataouine where they will be 4 relays that will continue for 2 hours. We tell the kids that the Marathon can be conceived as a dinosaur where each team represents one of the dinosaur legs.”
The concept of using a dinosaur came to Belhedi when he was in the Tata Museum. “I realized that the total distances that I have swum during my life is in fact only a few dinosaur feet. The biggest foot of a Jurassic Dinosaur easily covers the length of the 25m Tata swimming pool. So my 24-hour swim is not so great compared to these distance. It is basically only a short 40,024 dinosaur feet. I said to myself, ‘I have to swim more to be able to go shoulder-to-shoulder with dinosaurs.”
Over time, plans call for the inaugural 2-hour relay to gradually increase year by year to 24-hour relays where more and more people will participate, even if they swim for only a few seconds or more time depending on their potential.
To attract the young children, Belhedi has come up with some creative enticements. “All the individual and team distances will be expressed in dinosaur feet where 1 DF equals 25 meters. When the teams reach a certain distance, the teams is given a passport to travel into the Jurassic era to meet the dinosaurs. Their achievement of specific distances marks their success to travel through the time, a sort of symbolic diploma. The kids all want to engage with a real dinosaur so they are motivated to swim.
The purpose of this Ouma Relay in the swimming pool is firstly to encourage people and mainly children to practice swimming, teach goal-setting, and offer them the opportunity to improve their distances swum from year to year. We will also have workshops to teach about physical well-being, anti-doping sensibilities, biomechanical education, nutrition consulting, and evaluation of one’s swimming abilities.”
Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association