Elite runners bid to stamp their Olympic tickets at 23rd Dubai Marathon

Last Year’s top two women runners and Ethiopian duo Dera Dida and Ruti Aga go head-to-head once again

By Team KT

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Saeed Hareb (Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council) and His Excellency Dr Mohammed Al Murr (President of the UAE Athletics Federation) met the elite athletes and other dignitaries at the Dubai Marathon press briefing. - Supplied photo
Saeed Hareb (Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council) and His Excellency Dr Mohammed Al Murr (President of the UAE Athletics Federation) met the elite athletes and other dignitaries at the Dubai Marathon press briefing. - Supplied photo

Published: Fri 5 Jan 2024, 8:25 PM

The 23rd Dubai Marathon gets underway on Sunday with a host of distance runners set to take advantage of the early opportunity to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics in the summer.

The annual long-distance running showpiece is staged under the auspices of the Dubai Sports Council, whose Secretary General, Saeed Hareb said: “The Dubai Marathon is an important part of the city’s sporting calendar, more so now that it is the first major event of 2024.

“The race has been very successful since the first event in 1998 but we always strive to be better. It is good to see so many wonderful elite athletes with us today and we wish them all well for the race on Sunday.”

Less than ten months after battling it out for the 2023 Dubai Marathon title Ethiopian duo Dera Dida and Ruti Aga will go head-to-head once again only this time on the fast and flat roads around Jumeirah and the Burj Al Arab.

Eleven months ago, it was Dida – wife of former Dubai Marathon winner and ex-World Champion Tamirat Tola – who stormed through with two kilometres remaining to take the women’s event in 2:21:11 just 13 seconds ahead of compatriot Aga in second.

Defending women’s champion Dera Dida takes in the sights of Dubai prior to defending her title in the 2024 Dubai Marathon. - Supplied photo
Defending women’s champion Dera Dida takes in the sights of Dubai prior to defending her title in the 2024 Dubai Marathon. - Supplied photo

This week the pair will be reunited again – and while Dida returns as reigning champion, it is Aga who is the fastest woman in the field with a personal best of 2:18:09, which she set when winning in Dongying China a few months ago.

For Aga, it’s a third visit to the Dubai Marathon after competing in both 2017 and 2023. Her record in major marathons is impressive having won in Tokyo (2019), finished second in Berlin twice (2017 and 2018) and claimed third in the 2019 New York Marathon.

Like Aga, Dida also lowered her marathon PB in 2023 to 2:19:24 while finishing sixth in Berlin but it will be 29-year-old Aga who starts as favourite when the Middle East’s oldest international marathon gets underway on Umm Suqeim Road.

In the men’s field, Ethiopians Workineh Tadese Mandefro and Kebede Tulu Wami lead the way with the former’s personal best of 2:05:07 coming in Hamburg 2022. Tulu is only a few seconds slower, his best of 2.05.19 earned him second place in Seville nine months ago.

Many first-time elites got their first taste of the Dubai Marathon experience at the pre-race press conference held at the SIRO One Za'abeel, the first fully integrated Fitness + Recovery hotel in Dubai. For the best distance runners in the sport, it is the perfect retreat before taking on one of the fastest routes in the marathon running world.

“The athletes are excited about the event returning to the flat course around Umm Suqeim, the Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Road, which is renowned for delivering fast times,” said Race Director Peter Connerton.

“The elite field is looking strong, and our thanks go to the Dubai Sports Council and the relevant Dubai Government bodies who help us give the athletes a wonderful place to run.

“Dubai has made a name for itself as a city that produces great marathon times – with the field of elite athletes we have this year, I am looking forward to some exciting new stories being created this weekend.”

As well as the elite field competing in the marathon, the wheelchair marathon, the 10km Road Race and the 4km Fun Run will also take place over a route that hasn’t seen mass participation running on this scale in four years.

It will be the first time the area has staged the Dubai Marathon since January 2020 and is a part of the city considered the marathon’s “home” by tens of thousands of Dubai-based runners.

Runners who would like to follow the elites and who have still not registered for the three-race event can sign up for the Marathon, the 10km and the 4km Fun Run at dubaimarathon.org until Saturday (January 6).

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As an added bonus for home runners, holders of a valid UAE residence visa and UAE driving licence who register to run can also have the chance to win an EXEED RX, courtesy of EXEED by Al Ghurair, the renowned premium vehicle brand represented by AG Auto in the UAE

The 2024 Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, adidas, Dubai Duty Free, EXEED by Al Ghurair, the Channel 4 Radio Network, ITP Media Group, Bisleri Water, Biofreeze, Dubai RTA, Dubai Police, Al Ameen Service, Dubai Municipality and SIRO One Za'abeel, the first fully integrated Fitness + Recovery hotel in Dubai.


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