Excitement reaches fever pitch as Dubai Marathon returns

New look route for middle east’s oldest marathon in its silver jubilee year

by

Leslie Wilson Jr

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Tsegaye Mekonnen of Ethiopia will be filled with emotion when he lines up to face the starter’s gun because it was his victory at the 2014 Dubai Marathon that changed his life forever. — KT file
Tsegaye Mekonnen of Ethiopia will be filled with emotion when he lines up to face the starter’s gun because it was his victory at the 2014 Dubai Marathon that changed his life forever. — KT file

Published: Sat 11 Feb 2023, 8:27 PM

Familiar faces, familiar excitement, but a not-so-familiar route.

Yes, the Dubai Marathon is back.


After a gap of two years, the Middle East’s most popular long-distance extravaganza returns on Sunday where over 20,000 athletes, including People with Determination, will attempt to master a brand new route that starts and finishes at the spectacular Al Wasl dome in the heart of Expo City Dubai.

The global pandemic may have prevented organisers from staging the run over the last couple of years, but it has not stopped them from delivering one of the best marathons in the event’s 25-year history this year.


Held under the banner of the Dubai Sports Council, the 42.195 kilometer run is categorised as a Gold Label Road Race that has been designated by World Athletics as one of the leading road races around the world.

The marathon is scheduled to start at 6 am with athletes of all abilities starting at the same time as the world’s elite distance specialists. However, the 10km Road Race and 4km Fun Run will start at 8 am and 11 am respectively

The star-studded men’s field will welcome the return of unofficial junior world record holder Tsegaye Mekonnen from Ethiopia who will bid to reprise his gold-medal-winning performance of 2014.

The 28-year-old running sensation boasts the field’s personal best time of 2:04:32 but he will have to be at his best with several experienced runners in the field including fellow Ethiopians and 2022 Rome and Linz Marathon winner Fikre Bekele, former Rotterdam Marathon champion Abera Kuma and Gebretsadik Abraha, a winner in Marrakech, Prague, Guangzhou and, most recently, in Ljubljana.

Mekonnen will be filled with emotion when he lines up to face the starter’s gun because it was the victory in Dubai that changed his life forever.

“Winning in Dubai meant I was able to buy a house in Addis Ababa and I bought a car to be able to go to training,” he said. “I was also able to stop school and concentrate fully on running.

“It is definitely a completely different life for me now.”

Several of the athletes will also be hoping that Sunday’s renewal of the Dubai Marathon will help give them a new life and something more to dream about.

Gutemi Shone, who finished runner-up to fellow Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa, who holds the record of being the fourth fastest female marathoner in history, will hope to go one better.

An elite performer on the international stage, Shone, 31, finished in fifth place in Seoul last year. She comes into this year’s event high in confidence and is well prepared to take on the tough competition from compatriots Ruti Aga (personal best 2:18:34), Gelete Burka, and the talented 22-year-old Siranesh Yirga, the winner of three successive marathons in 2022.

The Dubai Marathon has made a name for itself by embracing athletes of all abilities and as a result, the wheelchair category has become one of the most popular on the circuit.

Switzerland’s Marcel Hug, who won the race in 2020, will be back hoping to be crowned the winner for the second time.

And he has a goal.

“I want to try to break the world record.” said the man known as the Silver Bullet. “But a lot depends on the wind direction which is difficult to predict. It is very early in the season and the Dubai Marathon will be my first competition in 2023 but I trained very hard for this and I feel well prepared.”

Hug competes in the T54 classification for athletes with spinal cord injuries who race in a custom-built wheelchair approved for track and road events.

Hug, 38, is a six-time Olympic and eight-time World Champion. His most recent victory came in 2022 when he won the London Marathon.

One of the stars of the women’s wheelchair category is England’s Eden Rainbow-Cooper who won the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The 22-year-old Rainbow-Cooper is making her Dubai as a member of the Weir Archer Academy, an organisatioin run by six-time Paralympic champion David Weir.

“I’m very excited to be competing in my first Dubai Marathon and Grand Prix,” said Rainbow-Cooper. “I can’t wait to get the first marathon and track event of the season under my belt to see where I am at and also to see some good friends for the first time in 2023.”

Ahmed Al Kamali, Event General Co-ordinator; General Nasser Aman Al Rama, Dubai Sports Council Assistant Secretary, elite athlete Eden Rainbow-Cooper; Saeed Hareb,  Dubai Sports Council Secretary General; and Dubai Marathon Race Director Peter Connerton at the Al Wasl Dome in Expo City. — Supplied photo
Ahmed Al Kamali, Event General Co-ordinator; General Nasser Aman Al Rama, Dubai Sports Council Assistant Secretary, elite athlete Eden Rainbow-Cooper; Saeed Hareb, Dubai Sports Council Secretary General; and Dubai Marathon Race Director Peter Connerton at the Al Wasl Dome in Expo City. — Supplied photo

The marathon route will see the athletes negotiate the expanse of Expo City Dubai before they head out onto some of the city’s most modern highways, past Dubai Investments Park and Jumeirah Golf Estates, before returning to finish in front of the majestic Al Wasl Dome.

Peter Connerton, the Dubai Marathon’s long-standing Race Director, was excited to welcome back the event, albeit at a new home, and said: “When we were invited to move the event to Expo City Dubai, we knew it would be a major logistical challenge for the team.

“Our traffic management and route officials have spent many long nights establishing a route that will embrace both Expo City Dubai and its surroundings, while the finish line is a completely new concept we hope the runners will enjoy.”

The 2023 Dubai Marathon is supported by Adidas, Dubai Duty Free, NORQAIN, the Channel 4 Radio Network, Al Ameen, the Dubai Sports Council, Dubai RTA, Dubai Police, and Dubai Municipality.

At A Glance

Dubai Marathon

When: Sunday, February 12, 2023

Where: Expo City Dubai

Event type: Road race

Distance: 42.195Km, 10K, 4K.

Established: 1998

Records:

Men Getanesh Molla 2:03:34 (2019)

Women: Ruth Chepngetich: 2:17:08 (2019)


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