After a stunning race in 2018 in which the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon produced unprecedented depth, the latest edition of the IAAF Gold Label road race gets underway on the streets of the emirate on Friday (25).
Twelve months on from two course records and historic finishes in the men and women’s events, a powerful field will assemble again on Friday for what is sure to be another classic battle over the classic 42.195km distance that runs through Jumeirah.
Guye Adola, who clocked the fastest ever marathon debut in Berlin in 2017 when he finished a close runner-up to Eliud Kipchoge in 2:03:46, is the fastest man in this year’s field. The Ethiopian will be keen to recapture his best form after illness forced him to withdraw from the Frankfurt Marathon three months ago.
Compatriots Asefa Mengstu and Sisay Lemma clocked 2:04:06 and 2:04:08 respectively in Dubai last year, both of which were quicker than the previous course record but only good enough for fourth and fifth place on the day. Mengstu, who won the Seoul Marathon two months ago, and Lemma, who won in Ljubljana in October in 2:04:58, will be aiming to make it on to Dubai’s podium this time.
One man in the field knows how it feels to win in Dubai. Lemi Berhanu won in 2015 in 2:05:28 and then returned in 2016 to set a PB of 2:04:33 when finishing second. Like Mengstu and Lemma, he heads to Dubai off the back of a marathon victory, having won in Hengshui in September in 2:08:51.
Emmanuel Saina hit the headlines in September last year when winning the Buenos Aires Marathon in 2:05:21 on his debut at the distance. The 27-year-old will be contesting his second marathon to date and aims to end the streak of Ethiopian victories going back to 2012.
Switzerland’s Tadesse Abraham won European half marathon gold in 2016 and European marathon silver in 2018, but on Friday he will be chasing times, specifically Mo Farah’s European record of 2:05:11. The 36-year-old has a best of 2:06:40, set three years ago in Seoul.
Dubai has a history of surprising performances from marathon debutants and this year’s field includes two men who will be racing for the first time at 26.2 miles.
Ethiopia’s 2011 world 10,000m champion Ibrahim Jeilan will move up in distance. The 29-year-old has raced sparingly over the past two years and heads to Dubai off the back of a fifth-place finish over four miles in Groningen and a sixth-place finish over 10km in Trento, both in October.
Getaneh Molla appears a slightly better prospect. Winner of the Ethiopian 5000m title for the past four years, the 25-year-old finished fifth at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018 and went on to take the 5000m silver medal at the African Championships.
Chepngetich aims to end Ethiopian dominance
Ethiopia’s winning streak of the women’s race in Dubai goes back even further than the men’s as they have won the past 12 editions. But that dominance will be under threat on Friday when Ruth Chepngetich takes to the start line.
The Kenyan surprised the athletics world in November last year when she successfully defended her Istanbul Marathon title, smashing her PB by four minutes with 2:18:35 and moving to equal seventh on the world all-time list.
But while Chepngetich boasts the fastest PB of the field, Worknesh Degefa is more experienced when it comes to Dubai.
In fact, the Ethiopian has contested just two marathons to date, both of which were in Dubai. She won on her debut in 2017 in 2:22:36 and reduced her PB to 2:19:53 one year later to finish fourth in a high-quality race.
Sintayehu Lewetegn Hailemichael, who reduced her PB by eight minutes to 2:22:45 in Frankfurt last year, and Rahma Tusa, who has won four of her nine completed marathons to date, add to the Ethiopian strength in Dubai.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s 2011 world bronze medallist Sharon Cherop returns to Dubai seven years after her first appearance there, and former middle-distance specialist Tigist Assefa, who has an 800m PB of 1:59.24, will be making her marathon debut.
“This will be the 20th time we have staged the marathon in its current format and I’ve no doubt the athletes will once again provide us with a race worthy of the occasion,” said event director Peter Connerton.
“Last year saw new course records in both the men and women’s races, while we had seven men finish within 2:05 and four women within 2:20. Those were both unique results in marathon history and emphasised the depth of quality in the fields we put together in Dubai. As for the race route itself, we are hugely grateful to HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, for assisting the event’s staging in the heart of Jumeirah.”
The elite race starts at 6am local time on Friday morning and will be streamed live on the event’s official website, dubaimarathon.org, and on YouTube with no geo-blocking or rights restrictions.
Jon Mulkeen and organisers for the IAAF
Guye Adola Idemo (ETH) 2:03:46
Asefa Mengstu Negewo (ETH) 2:04:06
Sisay Lemma (ETH) 2:04:08
Lemi Berhanu Hayle (ETH) 2:04:33
Emmanuel Saina (KEN) 2:05:21
Kelkile Gezahegn Woldaregay (ETH) 2:05:56
Seboka Dibaba Tola (ETH) 2:06:17
Tadesse Abraham (SUI) 2:06:40
Adugna Takele Bikila (ETH) 2:08:31
Shifera Tamru Aredo (ETH) 2:08:50
Yenew Alamirew (ETH) 2:08:56
Birhanu Teshome Demisie (ETH) 2:09:03
Herpassa Negasa Kitesa (ETH) 2:09:14
Fikadu Kebebe Debele (ETH) 2:09:37
Shingo Igashi (JPN) 2:13:15
Kansuke Morihashi (JPN) 2:14:25
Kenichi Jiromaru (JPN) 2:14:48
Ibrahim Jeilan (ETH) debut
Geteneh Molla Tamire (ETH) debut
Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) 2:18:35
Worknesh Degefa Debele (ETH) 2:19:53
Sharon Cherop (KEN) 2:22:28
Sintayehu Lewetegn Hailemichael (ETH) 2:22:45
Rahma Tusa (ETH) 2:23:46
Birke Debele Beyene (ETH) 2:25:28
Muluhabt Tsega Chekol (ETH) 2:25:48
Waganesh Mekasha Amare (ETH) 2:25:57
Sule Utura (ETH) 2:29:04
Tigist Assefa Tessema (ETH) debut