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Dubai Marathon 2014 preview

Tsegay Atsedu

The 15th edition of the Dubai Marathon 2014 will feature a men’s race where two sub 2:05 runners return to the premier running event of the region

A combination of the biggest pot of prize money and most pancake-flat course among the major marathons means that extraordinary results can be expected in Dubai. The Standard Chartered DubaiMarathon has maintained that sequence and the tantalising prospect of a world record remains.

The event will feature a men’s race where two sub 2:05 runners return to the premier running event of the region: Markos Geneti (Ethiopia) and Jonathan Maiyo (Kenya) are among the favourites for the 200,000 Dollar first prize. The women’s race looks like an Ethiopian duel between Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Hailu. The Standard Chartered DubaiMarathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

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 U-turns left for the whole distance. Additionally the lowest and the highest points of the 42.195 k 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. In an area where building progress continue and new skyscrapers more or less “turn up” from one year to another, the elite runners could be on course for new heights as well. “This is probably the fastest course we have ever had,” said Peter Connerton. “We are hoping for a time of sub 2:04 on Friday.” Weather conditions look favourable, although there is always a risk of temperatures rising during the second hour of the race.

Two years ago the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon had four runners breaking 2:05. It was the first time that was achieved on a marathon course eligible for records. A year ago there were even five men who ran inside 2:05 in a finish which is still unique in marathon running.

Ethiopian Atsedu Tsegay to Debut

Two newcomers to the distance triumphed in the past two years, establishing themselves among the best in the world: Ayele Abshero won with a course record of 2:04:23 while Lelisa Desisa ran 2:04:45 in 2013. On Friday there is another runner who aims to continue this unusual debutants’ winning streak started by his fellow-Ethiopians: Atsedu Tsegay.

“I have chosen Dubai for my debut because I know this is a fast race on a flat course,” said 22 year-old Atsedu Tsegay, who has run the fifth fastest time ever in the half marathon 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.” Atsedu prepared in Addis Abeba for his marathon debut and ran distances of up to 40 k in training. “I will definitely follow the first group, no matter what pace they will run.”

Jonathan Maiyo is well aware of the debutants’ threat, and especially of Atsedu Tsegay . “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. In that race he just missed out on a podium finish behind Geneti (2:04:54). “This could be a world record race if we all work well together. I know that I can run faster than two years ago,” Maiyo added.

Six runners feature personal bests of sub 2:07 and another nine have run under 2:10.  While pacemakers will be instructed to run a pace inside the course record of 2:04:23, Ahmed Al Kamali hopes for more: “I dream of a world record,” said the President of the United Arab Emirates’ Athletics Federation, who is also a Council Member of the IAAF.

The women’s elite entry looks as strong as two years ago, when Aselefech Mergia (Ethiopia) set the course record with a time of 2:19:31. Three women broke 2:20 in that race, which remains a 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.

Six women who have been faster than 2:24 will compete in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. Among them are Ethiopian stars Meselech Melkamu (2:21:01) and Meseret Hailu (2:21:09). “With the quality of our women’s field we are pushing for a course record,” said Peter Connerton.

“I came to Dubai because I know about the fast course,” said Meselech Melkamu, who had won her debut marathon in Frankfurt in 2012 (2:21:01). After dropping out of the World Championships’ marathon in Moscow 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,” said Melkamu.

One of Melkamu’s strongest rivals will be Meseret Hailu. The World Half Marathon Champion from 2012 had run marathons in the years before, but it was not until Amsterdam in autumn 2012 that she achieved a major breakthrough: Hailu won the race with a course record of 2:21:09. After dropping out of the World Championships’ marathon in 2013 she will be eager to make amendments for this in Dubai.

While a sub 2:20 time could be on the cards it looks highly unlikely that the Ethiopian win streak will come to an end on Friday: Ethiopian women have won the past seven editions of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.

image credit: Giancarlo Colombo /

Main contenders


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                 BAH               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               —
Yebrgual Melese                ETH               Debut