Kenyan distance runner Jonathan Maiyo (© Organisers / Gianfranco Colombo)
The 15th edition of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon should again see some super-fast times at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race, with Ethiopia’s Markos Geneti and Kenya’s Jonathan Maiyo among the favourites for the USD$ 200,000 first prize in the men’s race on Friday (22).
In 2012, the race had four runners breaking 2:05. It was the first time that had been achieved on a marathon course eligible for records. A year ago this increased to five men who ran inside that benchmark, a finish which is still unique in marathon running.
However, one surprising aspect was that in both 2012 and 2013 it was men running their first marathon that triumphed. Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero won in 2012 with a course record of 2:04:23 while Lelisa Desisa ran 2:04:45 last year.
Trying to continue the debutants’ winning streak are their compatriot Atsedu Tsegay and Abera Kuma.
“I have chosen Dubai for my debut because I know this is a fast race on a flat course,” said the 22 year-old Tsegay, who is the fourth fastest man ever on a record-eligible half marathon course with 58:47.
“It is my aim to run 2:05 in my first marathon and of course I would like to continue the debutants’ win streak,” he added.
Tsegay prepared in Addis Abeba for his marathon debut and ran distances of up to 40 kilometres in training. “I will definitely follow the first group, no matter what pace they will run.”
Dubai debutant danger
Kuma was fifth in the 2013 World Championships 10,000m and Maiyo is well aware of the Ethiopian pair's threat, despite their lack of experience over the classic distance.
“Markos Geneti is a strong rival but there are plenty of others, especially the debutants”, said Maiyo, who ran his personal best of 2:04:56 when placing fourth in Dubai in 2012, when he just missed out on a podium finish after coming home two seconds behind Geneti.
“This could be a world record race if we all work well together. I know that I can run faster than two years ago,” he added.
Six runners feature personal bests of below 2:07 and another nine have run under 2:10.
The pacemakers of Friday will be instructed to run at a pace inside the course record of 2:04:23, but some people hope to see something even faster.
Perhaps even Wilson Kipsang’s world record of 2:03:23, set at the Berlin Marathon last September and only one minute exactly faster than the Dubai course record, could be under threat?
“I dream of a world record,” said the President of the United Arab Emirates’ Athletics Federation Ahmed Al Kamali, who is also an IAAF Council Member.
The women’s elite entry looks as strong as it was two years ago, when Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia set the current course record of 2:19:31.
Three women broke 2:20 in that race, another unique result in marathon running. A time of 2:21:30 – fast enough to win all but four marathons in the world last year – was only good enough for sixth place in this remarkable race two years ago.
Melkamu and Hailu aim to forget Moscow misery
Among the six women who have been faster than 2:24 in this year’s race are Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Hailu.
“We want to run fast, we want to run sub 2:20 and we will work together,” said Melkamu, who had won her debut marathon in Frankfurt in 2012 with what remains her personal best of 2:21:01. “I came to Dubai because I know about the fast course.”
Comparing the Dubai course with those in Frankfurt and London where she has run before, Melkamu said: “In London there are some ups and downs. Frankfurt is faster, but there are quite a few corners. I think Dubai has the best course. It is flat and the route is straight, which makes a difference.”
After dropping out of the IAAF World Championships marathon last summer she was supposed to return to Frankfurt in October. “But I got a muscle injury which was really bad, so I could not go. However I was able to train very well for Dubai, I am in good form,” reflected Melkamu.
Hailu was the 2012 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships gold medallist and had run marathons previously but it was not until Amsterdam in the autumn of 2012 that she achieved a major breakthrough when she won in the Dutch city in a personal best and course record of 2:21:09.
“Dubai has a very flat course and I am happy to have chosen this race. We have watched the marathon on TV in the past,” said Hailu.
For 23 year-old Hailu it will be the first marathon since she dropped out of the World Championships marathon in Moscow last August. “I had a foot injury, which forced me to stop,” said Hailu, who grew up in Bekagre which is in western Ethiopia. “In the future I hope to run 2:18 in the marathon.”
Regardless of the time, it looks highly unlikely that the Ethiopian women's winning streak will come to an end on Friday. Ethiopian women have won the past seven editions of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
The course has undergone minor changes because of construction works and now has the potential to be faster than ever with just two corners and two left hand U-turns during the whole distance.
Additionally the lowest and the highest points of the course are just six metres apart.
“Dubai is a developing city, so we constantly have to adapt but we always look to improve the course,” said Event Director Peter Connerton.
As in the past, the route stretches mainly along Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Road, an area where building progress constantly continues.
“This is probably the fastest course we have ever had,” added Connerton. “We are hoping for a (winning) time of sub 2:04 on Friday.”
Weather conditions look favourable, although there is always a risk of temperatures rising uncomfortably during the second hour of the race.
Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF
2014 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon elite fields
Markos Geneti (ETH) 2:04:54
Jonathan Maiyo (KEN) 2:04:56
Laban Korir (KEN) 2:06:05
Girmay Birhanu (ETH) 2:06:09
Deriba Merga (ETH) 2:06:38
Megersa Bacha (ETH) 2:06:56
Shumi Dechase (BRN) 2:07:11
Nicholas Kemboi (QAT)2:08:01
Habtamu Asefa (ETH) 2:08:28
Dejene Yirdaw (ETH) 2:08:30
Haile Haja (ETH) 2:08:35
Derese Tadese (ETH) 2:08:46
Abrha Milaw (ETH) 2:09:00
Sisay Lemma (ETH) 2:09:02
Yekeber Bayabel (ETH) 2:09:39
Atsedu Tsegay (ETH) debut
Abera Kuma (ETH) debut
Meselech Melkamu (ETH) 2:21:01
Meseret Hailu (ETH) 2:21:09
Firehiwot Dado (ETH) 2:23:15
Ehitu Kiros (ETH) 2:23:38
Mula Seboka (ETH) 2:23:48
Amane Gobena (ETH) 2:23:50
Belaynesh Oljira (ETH) 2:25:01
Sultan Haydar (TUR) 2:25:09
Misker Mekonnen (ETH) 2:25:45
Werknesh Kidane (ETH) 2:26:15
Goitetom Haftu (ETH) 2:26:21
Sechale Dalasa (ETH) 2:26:27
Zemzem Ahmed (ETH) 2:27:12
Wude Ayalew (ETH) debut
Yebrgual Melese (ETH) debut