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Those people who came to the streets beating their drums to cheer up the 36-year-old runner witnessed a master class in marathon from the former Olympic champion.
Defying a back pain that was troubling him since Thursday night, he overcame the challenges on the road to win the Standard Chartered Dubai International Marathon with a time of two hours, six minutes and nine seconds.
True he could not break his world record (02:03:59), but still it was a remarkable performance from someone who simply refused to give up.
Chala Dechase Beyene of Kenya ran the race of his life as he clocked his personal best time of 02:06:33 to take the second prize, while Gebrselassie’s compatriot, Eshetu Wendimu Tsige (02:06:46) also came up with an inspired run to take the third place.
In the women’s section, Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska Molisa stunned the favourites as she claimed the title with a time of 02:24:18.
“It was my dream to win this race. So I am very happy,” Molisa said after her memorable victory.
Molisa’s compatriot, Aberu Kebede Shewaye (02:24:26) finished runner-up while Kenya’s Helena Loshanyang Kirop (02:24:54) took the third place.
Last year’s winner Bezunesh Bekele of Ethiopia finished fourth.
In the men’s section though, there was a familiar name on the podium.
Gebrselassie later revealed how badly he wanted to win the race. The Ethiopian’s third victory in Dubai was not the best of his glittering career, but it showed us why he has so ruthlessly dominated the world of marathon.
His single-mindedness was the reason why his rivals, even after keeping pace with the great man, fell apart when the most demanding stage of the race arrived.
Even when he is not at his best, Gebrselassie is too hot to handle for his rivals. “I just hope that nobody is upset today as I couldn’t get the record,” said the champion with an apologetic smile.
“I had a sore back you know. Probably I slept in an awkward position. I took my physio’s help, but I wasn’t 100 per cent fit.
“I was really excited about this race. I really wanted to set a new record. But unfortunately my back didn’t support me!
“I took it easy in the first 15kms of the race. I didn’t want to go all out because that would have been risky. If I had done that, probably I couldn’t have completed the race. People would have said: ‘Look, Haile even couldn’t get to the podium’.
“I didn’t want that to happen. So I just concentrated on winning the race. At the end of the day it gives me a big pleasure that I managed to win the race. That’s very important, you know.
“But yes, when we entered the second stage of the race, I wanted to move a little bit. I wanted to push myself. But I was unable to change gear.
“It happens when you are not fully fit. It was a very difficult moment. I had to decide whether I would go for the record or for victory. In the end, I decided to go for the first place.”
The weather, according to the champion, was nice and ‘little humid’ when the sun came out.
“It was important for me to break the record, especially here in Dubai. You know I really like this place. Here everything is number one; number one building in the world, number one hotel in the world. So the number one marathon record would have been really nice. It will happen one day. If not me, I hope someone else will one day break this record here in Dubai.”
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