Two of Ethiopia’s leading marathon talents Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Hailu will head a strong women’s elite field when the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon takes to the streets on January 24.
And with nine runners owning personal bests of sub 2:24, this is one of the strongest elite fields ever assembled in the history of the event, which has consistently made headlines for outstanding personal and historic performances.
On the super-flat Dubai course, the 2:20 barrier and possibly the course record of 2:19:31 are likely to be under attack from such a talented array of women in the world’s richest marathon and the only three-time IAAF Gold Label ranked race in the region.
“Such is the quality of the field, there is every chance the women’s results in this year’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will be as impressive as those of the men,” said Event Director Peter Connerton, who also announced that the registration deadline of December 31 has been extended right up to the eve of the race itself.
“Due to the outstanding times achieved in Dubai, interest from elite runners continues to be high. This is also the case from local and international amateurs in the marathon, the 10km and the 3km Fun Run so we have decided to extend the deadline due to that demand and to help those who were unable to register over the Christmas and New Year period.”
A common strand runs through the brief marathon careers so far of Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Hailu who both have almost identical personal bests - Hailu won the Amsterdam Marathon in a course record of 2:21:09, while a week later Melkamu won the Frankfurt Marathon with a course record 2:21:01. Both times are among the fastest debuts ever by a woman.
Now 28, Melkamu was one of the world’s best long distance track runners before turning her attentions to the road. She remains the second fastest every at 10,000m and holds the African record of 29m:53.8s.
“In the future I want to reach times in the marathon that are as good as the results I achieved in the 10,000m,” she said.
Five years younger, Hailu has been a road race specialist throughout her international career. Two weeks before her Amsterdam debut victory she won the gold medal at the World Half Marathon Championships in Bulgaria.
More success at the distance followed with Hailu breaking the Ethiopian half marathon record in 66m:56s last February. Her recent form has been promising with fourth place in 69m:05s in last month’s New Delhi Half Marathon.
Despite their impressive records, there is one woman in the field who has run faster than both of them, although the passage of time may mean that outright victory is not a realistic challenge for Ethiopian Berhane Adere.
Now 40, Adere has a personal best of 2:20:42, won the 2007 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon in 2:22:42 and given good form could break the world masters or veterans record of 2:24:54 held by Germany’s Irina Mikitenko.
Ethiopians Mamitu Daska and Firehiwot Dado are another two world-class runners in the field for Dubai.
Daska was added to the field just a few days ago and the 2010 Dubai champion – whose personal best of 2:21:59 came in winning in Frankfurt in 2011 - is said to be in good form.
Dado triumphed in the New York Marathon in the same year with 2:23:15, which remains her personal best.
Ehitu Kiros of Ethiopia (2:23:39), Isabellah Andersson of Sweden (2:23:41) and Ethiopian duo Mula Seboka (2:23:48) and Amane Gobena (2:23:50) complete the sub 2:24 contingent in the start list.
Kiros and Gobena have good memories of last year’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon as they both set personal bests, finishing second and third respectively, while Andersson broke the current Swedish record in taking third place in 2011.
Held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, Adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Masafi, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police, the RTA and Dubai Municipality.
Runners looking to register for the marathon as well as the popular 10km men and women’s event and the 3km Fun Run can do so only at the official web site www.dubaimarathon.org.
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