World Athletics Gold Label race takes place on Sunday in the United Arab Emirates
The Dubai Marathon returns to the sporting calendar on Sunday (Feb 12) with strong line-ups and a course that starts and finishes from Expo City Dubai for the first time.
The World Athletics Gold Label sees a mix of experienced international marathon runners with raw talent keen to make a mark in the early years of their careers.
The live stream link is at the end of this article with commentary on race day from Tim Hutchings and Paula Radcliffe.
Ethiopian elites dominate the entry list in the women’s competition with Ruti Aga and compatriots Gutemi Shone and Gelete Burka all targeting the biggest marathon in the Middle East on February 12.
Twenty-nine-year-old Aga is the athlete with the fastest personal best in the field having clocked 2:18:34 when finishing second in the Berlin Marathon in 2018. Last year, the Ethiopian – who won the Tokyo Marathon in 2019 – claimed fourth in Chicago and will certainly be one to watch.
But while Aga, with three Marathon Majors medals to her name, has an impressive pedigree, her compatriot Shone knows exactly what to expect in Dubai having finished second last time she competed in the UAE in January 2020 – the last time the Dubai Marathon was staged before the pandemic.
That runner-up spot behind champion Worknesh Degefa was achieved with a personal best of 2:20:11 and the 31-year-old, who finished fifth last year in Seoul, will be looking to use that ‘local knowledge’ to go one place better on the podium on the race’s return to the sporting calendar.
Also returning to the Middle East with experience of running in the Gulf is 37-year-old Gelete Burka. In 2018, Burka enjoyed a successful year starting off with sixth place and a personal best in Dubai (2:20:45) before winning the Ottawa Marathon in Canada and closing the year with third place and a podium finish in Abu Dhabi.
A hugely talented runner, in 2019 Burka added victory in the Paris Marathon and third place in Chicago to an impressive running CV that also includes World Championship medals and a 5000m top five finish at the London Olympics in 2012.
“Over the years we’ve enjoyed some breath-taking performances from marathon debut makers as well as experienced campaigners,” said Dubai Marathon event director Peter Connerton. “Athletes know that with the world-class infrastructure and benign weather conditions in Dubai, they can run a personal best and gain international recognition.”
Elite men’s field
As in the women’s race, it is Ethiopia that dominates the men’s elite field with a clutch of international champions set to fight it out for the title.
While Tsegaye Mekonnen, the 2014 Dubai Marathon champion, boasts the field’s personal best time of 2:04:32, he will face a number of talented and experienced rivals including 2022 Rome and Linz Marathon winner Fikre Bekele, former Rotterdam Marathon champion Abera Kuma and Gebretsadik Abraha, a winner in Marrakech, Prague, Guangzhou and, most recently, in Ljubljana.
And they face a challenging new 42.195km route that will take them from the expanse of Expo City Dubai out on to some of the city’s most modern highways, past Dubai Investments Park and Jumeirah Golf Estates, before returning to finish in front of the iconic Wasl Dome.
Still just 24, Fikre Bekele – known as Fikre Tefera until a few years ago – has competed in just six international marathons during his career, winning five and finishing fourth in the other. While his first two wins came in 2018 in Vadodara and Bilbao, the following year he was the surprise winner of the Frankfurt Marathon where he outkicked his rivals with 300m to go.
Bekele returned to action after the pandemic in 2022 with another two impressive victories winning in Rome (2:06:48) before securing his personal best of 2:06:13 in Linz, Austria – on both occasions he smashed the course records.
Like Bekele, Abraha comes to Dubai full of confidence as his most recent race was probably his best ever. In October he won the Ljubljana Marathon in Slovenia in a time of 2:06:09, finally improving a personal best he had set a decade earlier. Last year saw him run three marathons, winning two of them with that triumph in Ljubljana following on from victory in Lens in France.
Abera Kuma is another of the many Ethiopian world-class athletes who have made their marathon debuts at the Dubai Marathon. In 2014 he produced a fine performance in a top field and finished 10th in 2:09:53. He ran his second marathon in Berlin, where he improved by almost four minutes, taking third place in 2:05:56, which remains his second fastest time at the distance.
His big marathon victory came in 2015 in Rotterdam, a city where he also clocked his personal best of 2:05:50 three years later, finishing in second place just six seconds behind the winner.
The event is live from 3:00-6:00 (UTC) on February 12.
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