Tamirat Tola is the surprise winner of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. The 25 year-old Ethiopian took the race with a course record of 2:04:11, improving his personal best by more than two minutes.
Fellow-Ethiopians Mule Wasihun and Sisay Lemma finished in second and third positions with 2:06:46 and 2:08:04 respectively.
The big pre-race favourite Kenenisa Bekele, who aimed to break the world record of 2:02:57, suffered a major disappointment.
Falling right at the start after being tripped from behind he lost contact to the leading group before the 10 k mark. The Ethiopian, who missed the world record by six seconds in Berlin last September, then dropped out at around 23 k and was seen holding his left calf.
There was an upset in the women’s race as well: 26 year-old debutant Worknesh Degefa secured her biggest career win with a time of 2:22:36.
It was an all-Ethiopian podium as well. Shure Demise was second in 2:22:57 and Yebrgual Melese took third with 2:23:13.
Both winners established world leading times and collected 200,000 Dollars each. All times are still unofficial.
The bonus is in addition to the first prize of US$200,000 and underlines the status of the popular IAAF Gold Label race as the richest marathon in the world.
Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele – whose personal best is just six seconds outside the world record of 2h:02m:57s held by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto – will be seen by many as the pre-race favourite. But if the three-time Olympic gold medalist is to land that massive bonus, he will have to run the classic 42.195km distance quicker than any athlete in marathon history.
After a decade of unprecedented success, the eyes of the athletic world will once again be on the first big international marathon of the New Year when the Middle East’s biggest mass participation event hits the flats streets of Dubai.
“The progression we have made is one we aim to maintain, which is why, in addition to the record prize-money, we are also offering the runners an incentive of a bonus should one of them break the current world record,” said Event Director Peter Connerton.
Kimetto’s 2014 world record – set in Berlin – is now coming under serious threat from the running elite following the 2016 performances of Bekele in Berlin (2:03:03) and Eliud Kipchoge (2:03:05) in London.
“We don’t put together a field with a view to breaking the world record,” added Connerton. “But when you have the quality of field that we always try to ensure in Dubai, fast times are a natural by-product. Our aim is always to make the race of benefit to the athletes themselves – runners know that with the type of course and weather we have in Dubai they are well capable of producing a season or personal best.”
Just nine years ago, Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie ran a new course record as the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon moved into the big league with record prize-money and a world record bonus.
Gebrselassie’s 2:04:53 broke the course record by nearly five minutes and was the second fastest marathon time in history, trailing only his own world record of 2:04:26 from Berlin just four months earlier. Fast forward to today and the average of the top ten Dubai Marathon times is 2:04:40. Ayele Abshero now holds the course record with 2:04:23, while even more remarkable is that Gebrselassie’s 2008 winning time no longer ranks in Dubai’s all-time top ten.
“Tesfaye Abera missed the course record by just one second last year in a race, which at one stage was on world record pace,” said Connerton. “The consistently fast times show the event is firmly alongside the likes of London, Berlin and New York, while in terms of strength in depth we are undoubtedly one of the best and remain the only marathon in history to have five men finish in under 2:05.”
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon has been an IAAF Gold Label race for six successive years and was one of only four events in the UAE to receive a five-star award from the Dubai Sports Council for 2015-16.
The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Sport 360, Masafi, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police and the RTA.
Online entries have now closed – those still looking to register for the Marathon, the 10km or the 4km run should do so in person at the Meydan Hotel, Turf Suite (4th Floor) on Tuesday or Wednesday (January 17/18) from 10am-7pm or on Thursday (January 19) between 10am and 5pm.