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All eyes on Dubai Marathon for world record

Moni Mathews / 24 January 2014

Over 20,000 runners are expected to start and finish at the Burj Al Arab area close to the Dubai Police College in Jumeirah on Friday.


The men’s and women’s winners in Dubai have a take home offer of $200,000 each plus a world record bonus of $100,000. — KT file

For the past many seasons, organisers of the Dubai Marathon have looked forward to a world record.

The 2014 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday (today), with a new ‘dream course’ could turn out to be the sports event of the year.

The men’s world mark to be broken is 2:03:23 set by Kenya’s Wilson Kipsan at the 2013 Berlin Marathon while Britain’s Paula Ratcliffe’s 2003 London Marathon mark of 2:15:25 is still intact.

The men’s and women’s winners in Dubai have a take home offer of $200,000 each plus a world record bonus of $100,000.

Held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, the Middle East’s biggest mass participation sporting event will see the Marathon get underway at 7am with the 10km Road Race starting at 7.15am and the 3km Fun Run at 11am.

The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, Adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Masafi, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police, the RTA and Dubai Municipality.

Awarded the Gold Label status from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for the third consecutive year, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon remains the world’s richest running race.

Over 20,000 runners are expected to start and finish at the Burj Al Arab area close to the Dubai Police College in Jumeirah on Friday and amongst them will be some of the best men and women marathon runners in the world.

The 42.195km classic distance race will start on the Umm Sequiem Road close to the Dubai Police Academy and take the runners down Jumeirah Beach Road to the Union Flag before turning back along the beachfront road and taking the athletes south past the Burj Al Arab and Madinat Jumeirah before the next major turn at the One & Only Royal Mirage.

The marathon fields will then head back up the Jumeirah Beach Road and turn into Umm Sequiem Road and fight it out towards the finish line.

As usual, the African athletes are expected to put aside the challenges from Europe, Asia and the US. In 2013, at around the same time, Dubai witnessed the fastest ever sub time of 2:05 here being registered by five runners.

The Dubai course is more runner friendly overall, but it comes under the strict IAAF specifications of the minimums required if a world record is to be recognised.

Ethiopians maintained dominance of the Dubai Marathon when Lelisa Desisa overtook countryman Berhanu Shiferaw in the final kilometre to win in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 45 seconds (2:04:45), in 2013.

Two of Ethiopia’s leading marathon talents Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Hailu head a strong women’s elite field on Friday.

With nine runners owning personal bests of sub 2:24, this is one of the strongest elite fields ever assembled in the history of the event.

On the super-flat Dubai course, the 2:20 barrier and possibly the course record of 2:19:31 are likely to be under attack from such a talented array of women in the world’s richest marathon and the only three-time IAAF Gold Label ranked race in the region.

“Such is the quality of the field, there is every chance the women’s results in this year’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will be as impressive as those of the men,” said Event Director Peter Connerton.

Twenty eight-year old Meselech and Meseret have almost identical personal bests – Hailu won the Amsterdam Marathon in a course record of 2:21:09, while a week later Melkamu won the Frankfurt Marathon with a course record 2:21:01. Both times are among the fastest debuts ever by a woman.

Meselech said: “In the future I want to reach times in the marathon that are as good as the results I achieved in the 10,000m.”

Meseret, five years younger than her team-mate, has been a road race specialist throughout her international career. Her recent form has been promising with fourth place in 69m:05s in last month’s New Delhi Half Marathon.

Ethiopian Berhane Adere, at 40, who has a personal best of 2:20:42, won the 2007 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon in 2:22:42 and given good form could break the world masters or veterans record of 2:24:54 held by Germany’s Irina Mikitenko. Ethiopians Mamitu Daska and Firehiwot Dado are another two world-class runners in the field for Dubai.

Mamitu won the 2010 Dubai title and has a personal best of 2:21:59 in Frankfurt in 2011 — is said to be in good form. Dado triumphed in the New York Marathon the same year with 2:23:15, which remains her personal best.

In the men’s section, Atsedu Tsegay is the 22 year-old marathon debutant looking to follow in the footsteps of 2012 winner Ayele Abshero (2:04:23) and last year’s champ Desisa (2:04:45) who both produced stunning times to win on their first marathon appearances on the international stage. There are indications that Tsegay might indeed be the next great talent to emerge from Ethiopia despite a year away from the running scene recovering from an ankle injury.

In mid-December he won the New Delhi Half Marathon, which featured a superb elite field. Tsegay clocked 59m:12s to break the course record by three seconds and show that he has fully recovered from an ankle injury, which kept him out of competition for almost 12 months.

His half marathon personal best also suggests high potential, having run 58m:47s in Prague in 2012, not only a course record but also deposing the legendary three-time Dubai winner Haile Gebrselassie as the Ethiopian record holder.

“We have certainly witnessed some stunning marathon debuts here in Dubai and there is every reason to suggest we may see another ‘first timer’ win in 2014,” Connerton said.

Kenyan runners will be aiming to prevent a hat-trick of Ethiopian successes when the cream of African long distance running come together again here.

One of the Kenya’s strongest opponents from the Ethiopian contingent will be Markos Geneti who edged out Maiyo for third in Dubai in 2012. The Ethiopian finished two seconds ahead with a personal best of 2:04:54 and is one of nine sub 2:07 runners in the field.

Ethiopians rule the roost when it comes to the men’s competition on this quick course, while Kenya has produced a men’s champion on just one of the past six occasions when David Barmasai broke through on the international scene three years ago.

On Friday, the Kenyans will be going all out to reclaim supremacy despite the line-up boasting a potent mix of Ethiopian experience and promising debutants.

Jonathan Maiyo will lead Kenyan hopes and he has every reason to be confident — in 2012 he smashed his personal best in Dubai by almost eight minutes, improving from 2:12:45 to 2:04:56.

Although a world-class time, it was only good enough for fourth place behind the top of the podium Ethiopians. This year the 25 year-old has run one marathon finishing 10th in Tokyo in 2:10:18 and has every intention of being back to his best for Dubai.

Also returning to Dubai is Kenyan Nicholas Kipkemboi, who made his marathon debut in Dubai in 2013, clocking a fine 2:06:33 for sixth place.

moni@khaleejtimes.com with inputs from the official website

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