A familiar sight in Dubai - Haile Gebrselassie breaks the tape, this time in 2:06:09 (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
But a back problem, which required intensive pre-race physiotherapy, ruled out a World record attempt from the start, and when two of his lesser known compatriots – Chala Dechase and Eshetu Wendimu - caught him in the final stages of the race, it looked like a massive upset was on the cards.
But the experience of close to 20 years of record breaking pulled Gebre through to his eighth victory in eleven completed marathons, with an average time of 2:05:40, easily the most consistently excellent marathoner in history, all capped by his superlative World record of 2:03:59 from Berlin 2008.
Dechase was second in 2:06:33, a personal best by two minutes, and Wendimu was third, the same as last year, but this time two minutes faster in a personal best 2:06:46.
“This night was not a good night for me,” said Gebrselassie, “I slept in a wrong position, on my stomach, and when I woke up, I knew I had a problem, it was not good. I called my physiotherapist, and he came and cracked my back, and said, ‘what have you done?’”
“I was surprised at how humid it was at the start, but I still tried to run fast, but at halfway, I decided just to win the race. When the pacemakers dropped at 30k, I tried to go, but I couldn’t change a gear, so I waited for the second group, and just tried to win. I heard the crowd and knew where the finish was, and I was able to win.”
“This is not an indication I’m old, I still think the World record can be broken here, but these things happen.”
Daska takes an upset in women’s race
The upset was reserved for the women’s race. An Ethiopian won, as expected, but it was Mametu Daska rather than favourites, Bezunesh Bekele, who was fourth, or Askale Magarsa, who finished sixth.
A group of eight reached halfway together, but then began to break up, with only Daska, debutante Aberu Shewaye and last year’s third placer, Kenyan Helena Kirop left in contention at 35k. A kilometre later, Kirop was dropped, and Daska and Shewaye continued their struggle until less than two kilometres from home.
Despite being violently sick in the finishing straight, Daska held onto the 50 metres lead she had forged in the last kilometre, to collapse across the finish line, in 2:24:18, another personal best, ahead of Shewaye’s debut clocking of 2:24:26. Kirop was again third, in 2:24:54, a personal best for her. The prize money was the same as for the men.
Conditions had been more clement than expected, the humidity dropped as the race progressed, and the temperature only rose a degree from 17C (62F) between start and finish. And although the direct sun will have made it uncomfortable for the runners in the second part of the race, Gebreselassie has to add the misfortune of a bad back to the overenthusiastic start two years ago – a first half in 61:45, well under World record pace – and a downpour last year, making it a hat trick of horrors affecting an record attempt, in contrast to the much more satisfying victory treble.
Pat Butcher (organisers) for the IAAF
1. Haile GEBRSELASSIE, ETH 2.06.09
2. Chala DECHASE, ETH 2.06.33
3. Eshetu WENDIMU, ETH 2.06.46
4. Abiyote GUTA, ETH 2.09.03
5. Debele TULU, ETH 2.09.43
6. Abraham CHELANGA, KEN 2.10.28
7. Dejene YIRDAW, ETH 2.10.50
8. Lonard MUCHERU, KEN 2.11.08
9. Japhet KOSGEI, KEN 2.11.20
10. Yimane MEKONNEN, ETH 2.12.39
1. Mametu DASKA, ETH 2.24.18
2. Aberu SHEWAYE, ETH 2.24.26
3. Helena KIROP, KEN 2.24.54
4. Bezunesh BEKELE, ETH 2.26.05
5. Isobella ANDERSSON, SWE 2.26.52
6. Askale MAGARSA, ETH 2.27.29
7. Tedesse YESHIMEBET, ETH 2.27.45
8. Genet GETANEH, ETH 2.30.23
9. Woyshinet TAFA, ETH 2.32.06
10. Shuru DIRIBA, ETH 2.32.36