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Tsegaye Mekonnen targets more records

Tsegaye Mekonnen

After smashing the world junior record in Friday’s Standard Chartered DubaiMarathon the teenage sensation Tsegaye Mekonnen is eager to aim for more records. The 18 year-old won his debut in 2:04:32 and now intends to return to the Emirates for an attack on the world record next year.

Tsegaye Mekonnen started proper training four years ago when he was still at school. Qualification for the World Junior Championships in Barcelona in 2012 was a major breakthrough for him. He placed fifth in the 5,000 m final. These championships were a big motivation for me and a crucial factor in my career. Because after that I fully concentrated on running,” said Tsegaye Mekonnen, who will use his prize purse of 200,000 Dollars to improve his living standards. “I want to buy a car so that I willl be able to drive to the training venue. Then I plan to buy a house.” Mekonnen also hopes that the significant change in his financial situation will allow him to prepare better for his next marathon.

Although he ran his debut on Friday Mekonnen had been involved in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon 2013. “Last year I ran here as a pacemaker – that was when I decided that I wanted to come back and run the full distance. I knew it is a long way to the marathon, but I concentrated on training for my debut,” recalls Tsegaye Mekonnen, who had unspectacular personal bests of 13:44.43 for 5,000 m  and 62:41 in the half marathon before now breaking the marathon world junior record. The international athletics federation IAAF does not officially list world junior records in the marathon, but in road running they are common.

“I could have run faster, but all of us in the leading group lost some energy during the first part of the race. This was because the pace changed so often. It seemed that the pacemaker was doing some kind of fartlek,” said Tsegaye Mekonnen, who established himself as the eleventh fastest marathoner of all times, running the 14th fastest time ever and the third fastest debut (not counting results from Boston, where the course is not eligible for records).

Haile Gebrselassie has been an athlete he admired when he was young. “Now I want to attack his Ethiopian record,” said Tsegaye Mekonnen, who lives in Addis Abeba. “Next year I would very much like to come back to Dubai and go for the world record.” While Gebrselassie’s national best stands at 2:03:59, Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang broke the world record in Berlin last year with 2:03:23.

Once again the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon has proved that its superflat course is perfect for very fast times. Especially in the past three editions a number of youngsters have made an instant impact in Dubai. “It is our aim to support young, promising athletes and give them an opportunity to perform really well. We will continue to do this,” said Event Director Peter Connerton.

Remarkably the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon has now seen eleven athletes breaking 2:05. No other marathon in the world can match this. Ten of these times have been achieved in the past three editions and most of them by young athletes. This of course raises the question of what would happen if athletes like Wilson Kipsang, Patrick Makau or Dennis Kimetto would compete in Dubai. But Peter Connerton thinks that his Dubai course “has the potential for a sub 2:03 time”.

Dubai’s sub 2:05 list:

2:04:23          Ayele Abshero                      ETH                2012
2:04:32          Tsegaye Mekonnen             ETH                2014
2:04:45          Lelisa Desisa                       ETH                2013
2:04:48          Berhanu Shiferaw                ETH                2013
2:04:49          Tadese Tola                         ETH                2013
2:04:50          Dino Sefir                              ETH                2012
2:04:52          Endeshaw Negesse            ETH                2013
2:04:53          Haile Gebrselassie              ETH                2008
2:04:53          Bernard Koech                     KEN               2013
2:04:54          Markos Geneti                      ETH                2012
2:04:56          Jonathan Maiyo                    KEN               2012