Dubai Marathon yet another grand success

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Fast-paced popular annual event now inches towards world record

By Moni Mathews

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Published: Sun 26 Jan 2014, 11:24 AM

Last updated: Mon 29 Nov 2021, 12:05 PM

The Dubai Marathon has grown in strength with each passing year as it was evident with an estimated 30,000 runners of all ages taking part this year.

With nearly 30,000 runners of all age groups and different physical abilities taking part, the fast paced Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday was yet another grand success.

Having recorded the fastest average course timings for the second straight year when compared to the other marathons on the IAAF calendar, the flat ‘Dream Course' saw the all-conquering Ethiopians dominate the first 14 places in the men's and women's events over the distance of 42.195 kilometres.

The Dubai Marathon also has an open 10km run and a 3km fun run apart from the wheelchair event.

What's even more impressive about the event, now in its 15th year, is the fact that it has grown in stature and popularity especially among the nationals.

Ahmed Al Kamali, President of the UAE Athletics Federation and IAAF Council Member who has nursed the show right from inception along with a team of volunteers and professionals from here and abroad, said: "Remember, there was just one national for the first Dubai Marathon in 2000. Today (Friday last) we had well over 2,000 which is one of the biggest achievements as a mass participation sport.

"We have the right course for a world record and we have come close on three occasions including this year. There's a place and time for everything and we have to wait for another year. You see some of the marathons have tailor-made and special strategies to get on to the world record list. We believe in a more broad spec show where each and every participant from the elite bunch and the serious health and road running enthusiasts are provided with the best of venue facilities and safety aspects."

Sean Wallace, head of the Road Running section in the IAAF (world body) said: "Every course on the world stage has its own share of peculiarities. Some of the faster paced legs have flatter roads with the minimum of slopes. Dubai is a potential world record course and the facilities and atmosphere here are excellent. The best part is the great weather here at this time of the year."

In recent times, managers of the top African runners tend to be from the continent. The language barriers and communication blocks are less this way, as proved by the successes experienced by Gemedu Dedefo who looks after the professional careers of Tsegaye Mekonnen and Mulu Seboka, the men's and women's champions at this year's edition in Dubai.

"I am able to translate, liaise and provide companionship to my team members. Tsegaye and Mulu are great learners who listen carefully to their coaches and trainers. They want to learn the new methods in training and always want to keep improving whatever the situation is," said Dedefo, a former school teacher. What strikes us most about the east African runners is the modesty and simplicity when we interact with them.

The women from Ethiopia are generally shy and they have smile that makes conversations with them much easier though they speak only Amharic, the most widely spoken language in Ethiopia. "Concentrating on the half marathon worldwide has helped me handle the first stage of a full course better but we must be careful of the fatigue angle.

"On Friday, the pace maker (team-mates whose job is to push the top runners to better timings) helped me in my rhythm but after he slowed down due to a strain on his inner thigh, I had to manage the race all by myself," said 18-year old Tsegaye who also broke the junior world record by a minute and 35 seconds during his 2 hours 04 minutes and 32 seconds show in Dubai on Friday.

"It can be very lonely out there as you are in a special kind of a world mentally when focusing just on the remaining kilometres."

The men's race at this year's Dubai Marathon began very fast with split times that were well inside the world record of 2:03:23 established by Kenya's Wilson Kipsang in Berlin in 2013.

Mulu finished the women's race in a time of 2:25:01. The women's world record stands in the name of Britain's Paula Radcliffe whose 2:15:25 at the 2003 London Marathon stunned the world.

"I started running seriously 12 years ago and after winning some local competitions I was taken to Barcelona for the world junior championship. From there, thanks to the lucky breaks and assistance from my federation and coaches, I kept improving very fast in my timings," said Mula who upset the pre-event favourites from her country - Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Hailu - in the Dubai showdown on Friday.

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