Haile Gebrselassie ran the second fastest marathon in history, 2.04.53, to win the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday morning, but a suicidal early tempo by the Ethiopian and his pacemakers ruined any chance he had of breaking his own World record of 2.04.26, set in Berlin three months ago.
The weather was perfect for marathoners, global warming, or in the Gulf, global cooling kept the 7am start temperature down to 11C, rising to just 14C at the finish, with little wind.
Suicidal early pace
Already at 10km in 28.39, Gebrselassie was 45 seconds up on the Berlin pace, and at halfway in 61.27, that advantage had stretched to 61 seconds, positing a potential finishing time of well under 2.03. Since Gebreselassie himself had suggested that 2.03 was his limit, he had in effect predicted his own demise. As it proved, although he maintained his advance on a new World mark until 35km, when he still had 25 seconds in hand.
But the last pacemaker, Abel Kirui of Kenya had dropped out at 30km, and the pace itself was dropping inexorably. The million dollars for a new record, offered by Dubai Holding, evaporated before 40km, and in the end the 34-year-old Ethiopian was 27 seconds shy of his record.
Nevertheless, he had consolidated his position as the world’s best marathoner, and current most prolific record breaker (24 at last count), and today’s effort won him the biggest prize in marathon history, $250,000.
Isaac Macharia of Kenya came through to take second place in a personal best 2.07.16, and Sammy Korir, still the third fastest man in history (2.04.56 in Berlin 2003) was third in 2.08.01.
Gerbrselassie conceded that the start was too fast, “I wanted to do 62 minutes for halfway, and I paid the price in the final stages, but I’m happy to run this time. You know, everything needs to be perfect, and today, I missed one little thing.”
Adere sprints away
The women’s race was far more competitive, and also fast in the early stages, though not in the same register as Gebrselassie. Seven women were still together at halfway in 70 minutes, but similarly, class told in the end. Berhane Adere ran away in the last few kilometres, to win in 2.22.40, less than two minutes outside her Ethiopian women’s record of 2.20.42, set in Chicago 2006. She too won $250,000.
Her colleague, Bezunesh Bekele made one of the fastest marathon debuts in history, finishing second in 2.23.09, and defending champion, Askale Magarska was third, in 2.23.23, also a personal best.
There were some big name drop-outs. World Cross and Half-Marathon champion, Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands dropped out just after halfway with the recurrence of a calf problem, and Olivera Jevtic of Serbia lasted until 30km when stomach problems forced her out.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF
1 Gebrselassie, Haile ETH 2:04:53
2 Macharia, Isaac KEN 2:07:16
3 Korir, Sammy KEN 2:08:01
4 Kudama, Gudisa Shentema ETH 2:09:27
5 Tesfaye Tola ETH 2:09:38
6 Kipkoech, Raymond KEN 2:09:39
7 Chisma, Deressa ETH 2:10:16
8 Fikadu, Asnake ETH 2:11:04
1 Adere, Berhane ETH 2:22:42
2 Bezunesh Bekele ETH 2:23:09
3 Magarsa, Askale Tafa ETH 2:23:23
4 Cheruiyot, Rose Jelagat KEN 2:25:48
5 Chelengat, Alice KEN 2:27:29
6 Roba, Asha Gigi ETH 2:28:24
7 Gemechu, Shitaye ETH 2:30:20
8 Tola, Roba Guta ETH 2:33:44