Stars Aligned For Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon

Gebrselassie eyes new world record in Dubai.

Written By: Pat Butcher

Dubai puts a different slant on the Olympic motto of citius, altius, fortius. Development was dynamic, the bust was bigger, as was the bail-out, and the towers are taller. Now, in the wake of Monday’s opening of the Burj Khalifa, rising more than 800 metres over the desert floor, the emirate awaits the arrival of Haile Gebrselassie, fastest man in the world at the longest race.

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Inside a decade, the upcoming Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (January 22) has gone from a backwater event to one of the world’s fastest races. That says race director Peter Connerton is thanks to several factors. “Standard Chartered coming in as title sponsor half a dozen years ago put us on a firm basis, and Dubai Holding putting up a million dollars prize money (with a $1m bonus for a world record) two years ago helped us to get Haile on board.

“Not only has he given us two great races, the publicity has helped our development. Our participation has doubled since his first run two years ago. I never used to see people running in the street, now I see folks training everywhere.

“We’re delighted that he’s coming back again, and hopefully it’ll be third time lucky. He went too fast in the first half two years ago, and ran the second fastest in history at the time (2.04.53), and last year the bad weather ruined his record attempt. But he still ran the eight fastest marathon (2.05.29)”.

Principal opponents this year, Sammy Korir (2.04.56), Tesfaye Tola (2.06.57) and Joshua Chelanga (2.07.05) will hardly be heartened that, despite approaching his 37th birthday (April 18), Haile’s speed does not appear to be diminishing. Evidence of which was victory in the New Year’s 8k Silvesterlauf in Trier, Germany, in 22.23.

If the men’s race turns out to be a procession, headed by Gebre again attacking his 2.03.59 world record, the women’s event threatens to be highly competitive. It features winners from the last three years, Bezunesh Bekele (2.23.09), Berhane Adere (2.20.42), and Askale Magarska (2.21.31, all of Ethiopia).

Bekele disposed of Adere in short order in last year’s race (2.24.02 to 2.27.47), and the 26 year old has asked for a pace to deliver her to a sub-2.20 clocking, which if successful would see her replace the veteran Adere as national record holder.

With last year’s third placer Helena Kirop of Kenya, and two more Ethiopians, Genet Getaneh and Eyerusalem Kuma, all of whom beat Adere in 2009, this will be the race to rank alongside the record chase.

Pat Butcher offers event promotion, media consulting, film production and feature writing. To learn more visit his website www.globerunner.org .

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