Ethiopia’s superstar Kenenisa Bekele and Mergia set sights on course records in Dubai

Ethiopia’s superstar Kenenisa Bekele and Mergia set sights on course records in Dubai Kenenisa Bekele and Mergia

Course records could well be under threat at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon when one of the best elite fields ever seen – including three-time Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele – takes to the streets on Friday (23) for the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

The weather forecasters have been kept busy in recent days as Dubai has been beset by evening thunderstorms at the start of this week, but a different kind of storm awaits the city in the Gulf on Friday morning.

Both course records are targets in the race which has become firmly established among the world’s leading distance-running events. Ethiopia’s superstar Bekele headlines the men’s list which features 20 athletes with personal bests faster than 2:10, six of whom have run faster than 2:06.

The women’s field shows unprecedented depth at sub-2:28 level for a city marathon as no fewer than 23 women in the field have PBs faster than that mark. Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia is the fastest on the start list with a PB of 2:19:31 and that, for good measure, is the women’s course record.

In recent editions, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon made headlines when marathon debutants took victories in sensational style. This has happened on three consecutive occasions in the men’s race and the winners clocked world-class sub-2:05 times on each occasion. But given the depth of the field, it would be truly sensational if Dubai’s debutants’ winning streak were to continue on Friday.

You could be forgiven for thinking this is an Ethiopian national championship since the field is stacked with an abundance of their talent. And the runner taking centre stage is Bekele, the 5000m and 10,000m world record-holder.

“I feel confident, I am happy and I know that I am better prepared than before,” said the 32-year-old, who won his marathon debut in Paris last April with 2:05:04 and then took fourth place in Chicago in 2:05:51.

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