The Briton will be joined by fellow powerhouses Josh Cassidy, Patrick Monahan and Rafa Botello in Friday’s race as he attempts to cross first for the second straight year in the emirate.
Smith not only captured the top spot in his Dubai debut, but set a course record in 1:35:56.
His success, however, hasn’t altered his mindset coming into this edition, knowing his three peers are coming for his crown.
“It doesn’t change my approach in any way. If anything, it gives me more of a motivation coming back as defending champion,” Smith said. “It actually gives me a lot more motivation knowing the other guys are coming to take my title.”
For one, Smith will have to compete with Cassidy, the fastest man in a wheelchair.
The Canadian holds the world record time of 1:18:25, which he set at the 2012 Boston Marathon, as well as appearances at three Paralympic Games.
The foursome are rounded up by Ireland’s Monahan and Spain’s Botello, as Smith expects a battle that will not only push him, but all the athletes to bring out their best.
“This line-up, as a matter of fact, is one of the best that could be put together for us four athletes,” he said.
“With us, all four of us are so close and that on par, it’s literally going to be who’s the better race on the day.
He added: “When I did the marathon to last year, no disrespect to the other racers, but there was not really any competition for me because I was the only T54 racer there. I pushed the race completely on my own. I had no one to challenge me. This race will be a challenge from start to finish.”
The pecking order among the group of four is undefined, constantly changing throughout the race calendar.
Monahan, who Smith calls his racing “twin”, is anxious to see how the results will differ from previous races they’ve been involved in.
“It’ll be a good test for this time of the year because after all that happened between us last year, I’d like to see where I’m at in this stage and if I’ve moved on a bit,” he said.
He added: “I just don’t want to be fourth out of four.”
While Smith and Monahan admit the Dubai course, which features a flat and fast surface, goes against the style of roads they’re familiar with, the former has the experience of previously winning in
Dubai while the latter set his personal best on a similarly flat surface in Seoul last year.
They also feel the course will bring out mind games and strategy when the four are packed together.
Smith said: “It’s going to be very tactical and a thinking game from start to finish.”
Training with the strong line up for this years standard chartered… https://t.co/W4l7anIIU7— JohnBoy Smith (@Johnboytweet) January 18, 2017
Kenenisa Bekele doesn’t need a marathon world record to prove he is one of the greatest long-distance runners of all time. But one thing is for sure, he won’t feel “fulfilled” until he has one.
The 34-year-old may be closer to the end of a glittering career which has yielded 5,000m and 10,000m world records and three gold medals than the start, though you wouldn’t know it.
For the Ethiopian star, who says he is feeling in the best physical condition he has ever been in, chasing the history books over the 42.195km distance has turned into a new obsession and fresh chapter since his switch to the distance three years ago.
Bekele breezed to the Berlin Marathon title in September, recording a personal best and second-fastest marathon run of all time: two hours, three minutes and three seconds. Quite remarkable.
It was just a narrow six seconds short of Dennis Kimetto’s record set on the same course in 2014 and Bekele believes he can eclipse the Kenyan’s feat and claim the lucrative $250,000 bonus prize on offer, in addition to the regular $200,000 winner’s cheque. It’s certainly do-able on the flat and fast course of the world’s richest race, Friday’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
The Ethiopian long-distance running legend, who recorded the second-fastest time over the 42.195km distance during his Berlin triumph last September, is aiming to better Dennis Kimetto's record of 2:02:57 - set back in 2014.
Bekele, 34, came close to breaking his Kenyan rival's historic run in the German capital, crossing the finish line just six seconds slower for a personal best, 2:03:03.
But the 5,000m and 10,000m world record holder, who also has three Olympic gold medals to his name, believes he can rewrite the history books in the UAE.
"Of course I am believing in myself, that I can break the world record in Dubai on Friday," he told Sport360. "My condition is good, I hope to break this record.
"My confidence is 100 per cent but of course you never know, anything can happen in a race and marathon running - in a race you have to be confident 100 per cent and believe in yourself.