The great Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele will be under no illusion about the quality of the challenge awaiting him in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. The superstar of the track will face a contingent of world class runners including three athletes who have faster times than himself for the distance. Top of the charts for times is Bekele’s compatriot Lelisa Desisa, who won the Dubai title on his debut in 2013 with 2:04:45. A total of 21 runners will be on the start line with personal bests under 2:10. The women’s field is also impressively strong, headed by the Dubai course record holder, Aselefech Mergia (Ethiopia), who ran 2:19:31 for victory in 2012. A close runner-up on that occasion was the Kenyan Lucy Kabuu, who ran 2:19:34 on her marathon debut and will also be returning to Dubai. In what is likely to be unprecedented strength in depth for a city marathon, 23 women have entered with personal bests of sub-2:28.
Six men with personal bests of under 2:06 will be among the contenders on Dubai’s superfast course next Friday. After his sensational debut in Dubai two years ago, Lelisa Desisa has continued his impressive marathon form. Firstly he won the Boston Marathon and then finished second at the World Championship race in the summer of 2013. His flow of success was maintained with second place in New York for the 25-year-old.
Also lining up next Friday will be the man who finished just three seconds behind the winner in Dubai two years ago, Berhanu Shiferaw. Feyisa Lelisa is the third Ethiopian on the start list with a personal best under 2:05. He ran his best of 2:04:52 when finishing second in Chicago in 2012.
After outstanding performances on the track, Kenenisa Bekele made a winning debut at the marathon with 2:05:04 in Paris last spring. He will undoubtedly be setting his sights on a time within reach of the course record of 2:04:23, as will his fellow Ethiopian Girmay Birhanu, who ran 2:05:49 for third place in Dubai last year. Bazu Worku of Ethiopia completes the set of runners with PBs of sub 2:06. He has run 2:05:25 in Berlin 2010 and won the Houston Marathon a year ago.
The extraordinarily strong women’s elite field includes three Ethiopian runners who have won the Dubai title. Alongside the course record holder Aselefech Mergia (2:19:31) are Askale Tafa and Mamitu Daska. Tafa won in 2007 and improved her best to 2:21:31 as she finished second in Berlin the following year. Daska triumphed in 2010 and her personal best of 2:21:59 was set in winning the Frankfurt title in 2011. Another three runners have personal bests of under 2:22: Lucy Kabuu (2:19:34), Meselech Melkamu and Aliaksandra Duliba. The Ethiopian Melkamu won the Frankfurt Marathon in 2010 with 2:21:01 on her debut at the distance and finished second last year in Dubai while the Belorussian Duliba improved her best time to 2:21:29 for sixth place in Boston last year.
Others to watch are the Ethiopian Atsede Baysa, winner of the 2012 Chicago Marathon in 2:22:03 and her compatriot Aberu Kebede who was second in Dubai in 2010 before improving her best to 2:20:30 for victory in Berlin in 2012. Kebede also showed strong form to win the Frankfurt title with 2:22:21 last autumn. The winner of the New York Marathon 2011, Firehiwot Dado, who has a best of 2:23:15, should also be a contender for honours in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.