It was a balmy 36 degrees when the sun began to descend behind the Qatar Sports Club stadium on Tuesday evening and Abdalelah Haroun was about to kick off one of his last speed workouts ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
It was a standard late season early evening session for the Qatari 400m standout who raced to bronze over the distance in London two years ago: two sets of 150, 120 and 100 metre runs, clocking 15-16 seconds, 13-14 seconds, and 11 seconds for each, respectively. Then repeat. Four times.
He’s winded and dripping in sweat as he finishes up, but pleasant and upbeat too knowing that in exactly one week, he’ll be taking to the biggest stage his career has offered since he appeared on the international scene in 2015.
That year, just 18, Haroun blasted onto the scene with a spate of sub-45 second runs, notable performances in a handful of Diamond League races and the Asian title, capped by a 44.27 personal best which briefly sat atop the all-time Asian lists.
He won the world U20 title in 2016 and world bronze in 2017, setting himself up as one of the biggest home team prospects as Qatar began its preparation to host the 2019 World Championships edition. He underscored that potential with a solid 2018 season which included strong showings on the international circuit, titles at the Asian Game and Continental Cup and with a 44.07 lifetime best, threatening the 44-second barrier.
But then disaster struck shortly after his 2019 debut, a low-key 1:48.59 800m race in San Diego in March, when he tore a tendon in his hip. So, instead of putting in key early season work towards his big date in Doha, he was sidelined for nearly two-and-a-half months, missing out on the Asian Championships and the entire Diamond League circuit.
“Yeah, it was boring,” he said through a wide smile. “Time spent just relaxing, waiting to heal.”
He’s fully mended now, he says, and as fit as can be expected as he approaches next week’s 400m contest on a day-by-day basis.
“The focus is to get to the final first, and after that, we'll fight,” he said. “It's very important for me to make it to the final.” He believes a sub-45 run will be required to earn one of those eight spots.
“44.9 maybe. But I'll have to have a good lane, that's very important. So I'll push for that, or faster.”
While he’s not as race sharp as he’d have liked, he says his form is promising.
"I've recently been doing the same training as I did before London when I broke my PB,” he said, referring to the Diamond League stop in the British capital last year where he notched hi first career victory in the world’s premiere series. “Exactly the same training.”
That progress has pleased his coach of the past two years, Luis de Oliveira. “My coach is happy, he thinks I'll be ready to go (faster).
“It's very important for me to run good here,” he continues. “It's the biggest competition at home. I have to really do something.”
But the 400m, which gets underway with the heats on 1 October, forms just the first part of his Doha duties. The second is the 4x400m relay, where expectations are also high.
“We have good athletes on the team this year. The coaches told me, 'You are not the leader, but you're going to help us.'”
He doesn’t see that as pressure, more an honour and responsibility he cherishes.
“It's a great feeling to be at the World Championships in Doha. It's an amazing time for me.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF