Following his victory in 2014 and third-place finish last year, Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Mekonnen will start as one of the favourites for the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon when the IAAF Gold Label Road Race gets underway on January 20.
Mekonnen was just 18 when he became the youngest winner in the history of the world’s richest marathon, setting an unofficial world U20 best of 2:04:32 on his marathon debut. His surprise win came just 12 months after entering the 2013 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon as a pacemaker and remains the third-fastest marathon debut in history.
He returned in January this year for another tilt at the title and finished third in 2:04:46, just 22 seconds behind the winner, Tesfaye Abera.
“Winning in Dubai (in 2014) meant I was able to buy a house in Addis Ababa and I bought a car to be able to go to training,” said Mekonnen. “I was also able to stop school and concentrate fully on running. It is definitely a completely different life for me now.”
Barely three months after that memorable win over the flat and fast roads of Dubai, Mekonnen finished fifth at the 2014 London Marathon (2:08:06) and he returns to the emirate with two sub 2:05s to his name in the IAAF Gold Label event.
“Mekonnen is one runner who can really burn up this course again in January,” said event director Peter Connerton. “He could have won in 2016 and can run a lot faster but he needs a fast race from the start. He’s still only 21 and has a wonderful track record in Dubai – he will definitely be one to watch.”
Organisers for the IAAF