The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon lived up to its billing as one of the world’s fastest events as course records were shattered in both the men’s and women’s elite races.
Organisers set the cream of the crop of long distance runners off at 6am on Friday morning – one hour ahead of the masses – with this being only the second time in 19 editions of the race that elite runners were subject to a shotgun start before 7am.
The early kick-off certainly proved to have an impact, as combined with low temperatures and a cool breeze, elite runners cashed in on conditions conducive to quicker times on a flat and straight route which first took in Umm Suqeim and Al Sufouh roads and then two laps of Jumeirah Beach Road, from Madinat Jumeirah to the Al Mehemal junction.
Ethiopian Mosinet Geremew was the first male over the finish line at Dubai Police Academy, triumphing in a course record 2:04:00 – which was seven seconds faster than the previous record set by defending champion Tamirat Tola last year.
Geremew demonstrated incredible poise and concentration to withstand heavy pressure on the homestraight as he and five others were all in contention to scoop the $200,000 first-place prize in a dramatic fight to the death.
As it was, the 25-year-old hung on for the biggest win of his career and the 10th fastest certified marathon time of all time, finishing just two seconds ahead of second-placed Leul Gebresilase – who was making his marathon debut – while Tola, ended up six seconds off top spot despite running faster than his winning victory 12 months ago.
The top three and four more men; Asefa Mengstu (2:04:06), Sisay Lemma (2:04:08 – who was also making his first competitive outing over the distance), Birhanu Legese (2:04:15) and Seifu Tura Abdiwak (2:04:44) were all in the mix after running sub 2:05, making it the deepest race to the marathon finishing line in history.
It was also a day for Ethiopia – with all of the top 10 men being from that country – and hundreds more fans watching on from the packed grandstand.
As the numbers above suggest, the race itself was brutally quick. The pacemakers ensured a first-half split of 61:36 and the world record of 2:02:57 was still in reach at 30km, which was passed in 1:27:35.
Felix Kibitok, who had led the field, ran out of gas at the 35km juncture while Tola, who was in real contention for a Dubai double and in a strong position in a cluster of men at the front, lost his momentum somewhat after being tripped by rookie Gebresilase at a drinks stop with seven kilometres left to go.
As it was Mengstu took the initiative and held a precarious lead at the 40km marker but it was still anyone’s race until Geremew and Gebresilase somehow summoned extra energy reserves to claim first and second in a finish for the ages.
Amazingly, Geremew was not confirmed to compete in Dubai until less than a couple of weeks ago – but once again showcased his talent in the UAE.
“It was a very fast race, especially the first half, the competition was very good and the conditions were cool,” the 2015 RAK half marathon champion.
He added: “It was a good race with strong competition over a good course. When did I think I could win? I only thought about winning when I had one kilometre to go.”
— Sport360° (@Sport360) January 26, 2018
Although the men’s race was a thrilling spectacle, the women’s was equally packed with plenty of drama, history re-writing running and by no means played second fiddle at all.
Roza Dereje, a 22-year-old Ethiopian, cantered to victory – breaking away to win by 13 seconds in a new course record: 2:19:17.
Dereje added to her two back-to-back Shanghai Marathon victories in the past two years with a vintage display of lightning fast long-distance running, and incredibly, she was one of four women along with Feyse Tadese (2:19:30), Yebrgual Melese (2:19:36) and last year’s champion Worknesh Degefa (2:19:53), being the other, who all finished sub 2.20 – the most women to do just that in a single race.
If that wasn’t enough then more milestones were made when the two other top six finishers; Haftamnesh Tesfay (2:20:13) and Gelete Burka (2:20:45), both also broke 2.21 – making it the first time this had ever happened.
Dereje, who is now the seventh fastest marathoner in the history of women’s racing, had never gone under 2:22 before Friday but displayed her vast potential to overhaul Aselefech Mergia’s 2012 course record of 2:19:31 and record a superb personal best with a male pacemaker in tow on the home straight.
“From the beginning my training was very good and the race was comfortable for me,” Dereje, who also said she would ask her coach how to spend her $200k prize cheque, told assembled media.
“I felt fully confident past 40k that I could win the race and it is a nice victory for me.”
— Sport360° (@Sport360) January 26, 2018
Meanwhile, in the wheelchair races it was a Swiss double with “Silver Bullet” Marcel Hug winning the men’s title (1:25:14) and compatriot Sandra Graf taking the women’s gold in 1:45:13.
Make sure you are race-ready to tackle the tough 42.195km distance at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
Here are 10 top pre-race tips to help ensure you go out and run your best race on Friday.
1) THE GOLDEN RULE – STICK TO YOUR PLANS
Don’t make any sudden, drastic or different changes to your training plan, diet or running regime the day before and on race day itself. Stick to what you’ve been working on and what you know.
2) PREPARE YOUR KIT, INCLUDING RACE BIB
By now you will have your race number and timing chip. Make sure you attach that to the top you will run the marathon in the night before. It sounds like a basic piece of advice, but you don’t want to be rushing around in the morning trying to put everything together.
The same goes for the rest of your kit – it will make you sleep easier knowing that everything is prepared. Avoid cotton t-shirts and go for coolmax/nylon wear that will adsorb the sweat. It will feel cold at the 7am startline but the UAE heat will soon kick in.
3) DON’T TRY DIFFERENT TRAINERS ON RACE DAY
Ensure you are running in footwear you know and have tested (ran in) for race day. Don’t be tempted to wear brand-new shoes just to look the part, go with the footwear that has been there for you every step of the way throughout your training programme!
4) CARB LOADING
By eating foods such as oatmeal, yogurt, whole fruit, pasta, potatoes, bread and rice you can boost your glycogen (glucose) stores inside your body. This will help you to replenish energy levels quicker than normal and dip into your reserves when you need it most – probably during the tough moments towards the end of the marathon (last 10km).
Eat carbohydrate-rich foods on Thursday before the race but not too late, as you want to give your body time to digest the food.
As for your breakfast on race day, no need to carb-load as such, but try and eat a very light breakfast.
5) KEEP HYDRATED
Make sure you have drunk plenty of water in the lead-up to the race and it’s very important to stay hydrated throughout the run, taking advantage of all the water stops and topping yourself up with sports drinks and energy gels, too.
6) FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE ROUTE
The majority of Dubai marathoners have probably ran part of the route on a training run and it’s helpful to know landmarks along the way, helping you to build mini targets. Visualization and having a sense of the details of the course map can often give you a bit of a mental boost.
7) CHILL OUT
It’s sometimes hard to a get a good night’s sleep ahead of the marathon because of a mixture of nerves, excitement and the body’s unwillingness to completely switch off. But, if you can, just chill out on Thursday night, do nothing, set your alarm and get an early night.
8) WARM UP
Whether that’s a thorough stretching routine, a light jog or both, it’s vital you get the blood flowing and your muscles are ready to go on Friday. Loosen up, work up a bit of a sweat and don’t feel cold, especially when you’re waiting nervously on the start line.
9) SET TWO GOALS
Have a goal/time in mind that you are aiming for and another as a back-up plan, just in case the race doesn’t go exactly to script.
Unfortunately, marathon running is a rare sport in which you can do all the best preparation but it is very much an ‘on the day event’.
At this stage, all the preparation is done so just go out there, enjoy the experience and give it your best shot.
10) RUN AT YOUR PACE
Adrenaline always kicks in at the start and it’s a good thing if you feel a few butterflies. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, stick to your pace and plan. It’s proven that it’s better to have negative splits and run the first half of a marathon slower than the second, leaving you more in the tank at the end.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) January 16, 2018
This week’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon could see some records being broken, especially after slight changes to the route for Friday’s event.
Last year’s men’s champion Tamirat Tola set a new course record of 2h:04m:11s, and said he should have brought the record below the 2:04 mark. This year’s course features two loops of the famous Jumeirah Beach Road, which may give him the chance to break the record.
The elite runners will start at 6AM this year at Umm Suqeim Road, as usual, with the mass marathon set to keep its traditional 7AM start time – all but one of the previous 18 editions have started at 7.
From there Tola, defending women’s champion Worknesh Degefa and the rest of the world-class field will head back towards Madinat Jumeirah and on to the Jumeirah Beach Road for the first of two loops that will see them head up the Beach Road on the left carriageway before making a U-turn at Al Mehemal junction just before the bridge over the Creek.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) January 16, 2018
“The route gives the elites a fast and flat route that helps them towards their goals of personal bests and course records,” said Peter Connerton, the event director. “The double loop also means the runners will not be stretched all the way down the Beach Road, which will appeal to those spectators who want to come out in the early morning and see the best long-distance runners in the world.”
The 10km race will start at 9:00am and the 4km run at 11:00am – both of these races use King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street and finish on Umm Suqeim Street as the marathon is ongoing.