Lisa Campbell: The Game Changer

Running Champion Lisa Campbell is solely responsible for bringing the fierceness, discipline and integrity on UAE’s track and field.

A typical day in the life of Dubai’s running champion Lisa Campbell involves juggling her kids, their activities, home learning, zoom meetings, office work, managing her students’ fitness sessions and more. “Trying to make sure the team, athletes – coaches – parents are all happy. We are like a big family,” says coach Lisa who is also the founder of Ultimate Athletics.

She has single-handedly escalated the running scenario of the UAE track and field sessions to a whole new level. Lisa spoke to Story of Fitness about her vision, determination and what inspires her to keep going.


Lisa started the journey of Ultimate Athletics from seeing a need for Athletes to flourish when she was a Head of PE in Gems Wellington International school in Dubai
Lisa started the journey of Ultimate Athletics from seeing a need for Athletes to flourish when she was a Head of PE in Gems Wellington International school in Dubai

Recently UAE eased the restrictions and reopened the emirates. Lisa’s Ultimate Athletics (UA) was one of the first training academies to open following all government protocols. Even during the lockdown, her students were training using Zoom meetings.

Several female leaders across the world are handling this corona crisis better than their male counterparts. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel, and Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, has presided over one of the most commendable efforts in the world containing the virus. 

“Because we can multi-task!” says Lisa. She started Ultimate Athletics in 2015 with a small group of kids to now training hundreds of children and adults who are enthusiastic and passionate about various track and field events. “I think women can be more empathetic, genuine, and sincere but still have enough ruthlessness in them to get things done effectively.”

Lisa is an award winning athlete from the UK | Running champion of Dubai
Lisa is an award winning athlete from the UK


 There aren’t many female running coaches in the UAE. Even in the small percentage of female coaches, there is hardly any person of color leading a big team. How did Lisa become numero uno in her field? “I had connections with many schools, having been in the PE network since 2005. Hence, I had built up many contacts and played many sports in the region, rugby, and netball to name a couple. I had a fair idea of what worked with regards to hosting sports events and marketing. I have taught 30 teenage boys PE lessons and so coaching disciplined small groups of athletes is a dream.”


Lisa also adds that being a female has never been a barrier for her. This award-winning sportswoman started the journey of Ultimate Athletics from seeing a need for athletes to flourish when she was the head of PE in Gems Wellington International school in Dubai. “The concept began as an after-school provision. After having my 2nd child, I decided to give up teaching and start a formal Athletics Academy full time.” 


A few of her athletes travel around the world to participate in competitive sports, “Yes a few of our athletes travel to their home countries to participate in the Nationals, Krtajna Prem finished 4th place in the U17 Indian State Nationals for example. We also took the team to the Gothenburg Youth Games, The World’s Largest Youth Track, and Field meet. I am happy that we had 4 finalists and 1 medal, showing we can compete with the best youth athletes in the world.” 

Ultimate Athletics Ribbon Cutting of New DSC Track
Ultimate Athletics Ribbon Cutting of New DSC Track


Ultimate Athletics currently have different levels of training starting with tots and multi-events training where athletes can try out all the disciplines of track and field. “You never know if you will be a good shot putter, hurdler, high jumper if you have never tried! Then we have our development squads who specialize in certain events at 10-12 years old and have more technical training twice or more a week.”

They have an extraordinarily strong Teen Elite Squads who do 3 track sessions and 1 strength and conditioning session per week. Periodic time trials are also held on a regular basis. “Every month, the team participates in their monthly race nights and compete against others from all across the UAE. It gives them motivation, a chance to set targets, and systematic assessment of their progress.”

Here are some excerpts from our conversation with Lisa Campbell who has created many running champions in Dubai

Can you tell us more about yourself and how did you fall in love with running? 

My father was a keen athlete and took me to the running track in Battersea Park in London. That became a weekly affair before joining a local club Herne Hill Harriers to become a stronger athlete. I represented my school county Surrey and my home county London, did all the regional competitions and continued to train at Brunel University, whilst studying sports science. I always say sport kept me out of trouble and out of the student bars! But unfortunately, it does not pay the bills, so I moved into teaching and passing on my passion for the next generation.  

You also have a great number of brands supporting you. Do you handle the marketing aspect of UA as well?  

Yes, I handle the marketing aspect which I enjoy! It has a personal touch and I feel reflects the Ultimate Family that we are. Plus, what is the point of telling someone else your vision – it is quicker to do it myself! I do use a designer if I need to create a particular asset though – photoshop is not my thing! 🙂 

What is your vision for UA for the next five years? 

Just to continue doing what we do. Coaching keen athletes, developing talents, providing more opportunities for competitions, building connections with universities and sports scholarships. I want to provide a positive experience of sport, so my students are hooked on running as a healthy hobby for life! If we can get a few to Paris 2024 Olympics – Bonus! 

There is a lot of discussion about representation these days. Do you believe that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color need stronger representation by brands, at workplace, in sports, etc.? 

Personally, New Balance has been our sponsor for the past 3 years. We have had a fair representation of any athletes who get our product funding regardless of ethnicity. New Balance has recently supported two rising star athletes in Kenya, Koskei Kiprono and Wiseman Were. UAE is a melting pot of so many nationalities, which is one of the reasons I love it here. I have never felt my race or my children’s race has been an issue (Nigerian, English, and New Zealand!)  

Running champions of Dubai on the track and field
Running champions of Dubai on the track and field

Do you feel there is a representation issue in the UAE fitness scenario? 

I do feel women get equal or more advertising attention in the fitness industry for products and supplements promotion. Men still tend to dominate headlines more regarding their physical talents and abilities. It is getting better though with powerful sportswomen being household names such as Jessica Ennis, Serena William’s, and Allyson Felix. They are all mothers and still with successful sports careers. 

For more details on Ultimate Athletics, click HERE

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Arti Dani
Arti Dani is a journalist by trade, a travelling runner with 5 international marathons, one ultra-marathon under her belt. 100 push-ups a day is a simple job for her, even though she's still working to perfect her headstand skills.
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