2015 Dubai Women’s Preview: World Half Champ Gladys Cherono (Debut), Defending Champ Mulu Seboka & CR Holder Aselefech Mergia Headline a Ridiculously Deep Field

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An Incredible 12 Women With Sub-2:24 PBs and 22 Sub-2:28 Pbs Will Battle It Out For Glory

By LetsRun.com
January 22, 2015

The first major marathon of the year is upon us, as the 2015 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will take place at 10 pm ET Thursday evening  (7 a.m. Dubai time on Friday morning) on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Technically Dubai isn’t a “major” as it’s not part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York) but with a $200,000 first-place prize (the richest in all of track and field), an $800,000 prize purse (plus $100,000 for a world record) and a history of producing extremely fast times (five men broke 2:05 in 2013, the most ever in a single race), it’s clearly one of the world’s premier marathons.

In the women’s race, defending champion Mulu Seboka (2:23:13 pb) will take on course record holder Aselefech Mergia (2:19:31 pb), who will run her first marathon since 2012 after taking time off to have a baby. They’ll be joined by former major champions Aberu Kebede (Berlin 2010, 2012; Tokyo 2013), Atsede Baysa (Chicago 2010, 2012) and Firehiwot Dado (2011 New York) as well as 2014 World Half Marathon champion/2013 WC 10,000 silver medalist Gladys Cherono, who will make her marathon debut. In all, 22 women in the field have broken 2:28.

What: 2015 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon

When: Friday, 7 a.m. UAE Standard Time (10 p.m. Thursday ET)

Where: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

How to watch: Free live online stream here

Prize money (men’s and women’s are the same): 

1st$200,000
2nd$80,000
3rd$40,000
4th$20,000
5th$12,000
6th$11,200
7th$10,400
8th$9,600
9th$8,800
10th$8,000

There is a $100,000 bonus for a world record.

Women’s Race

The Dubai women’s field may lack a global superstar like Kenenisa Bekele in the men’s field, but it more than makes up for it with incredible depth. Twelve women have pbs better than 2:24; a total of 22 have run faster than 2:28. For comparison’s sake, the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon has 9 sub-2:24s and 14 sub-2:28s in its field. 2015 Boston has 11 sub-2:24s and 14 sub-2:28s.

There are so many talented women in this Dubai field that it’s very difficult to pick a favorite. Instead, we’ve listed the 10 best women in the field and given a reason why the will or won’t win the race on Friday.

 Full 2015 Dubai Marathon women’s elite field

BIB Name Country Bib Name PB
W1 Aselefech Mergia Medessa Ethiopia MERGIA 2:19:31
W2 Lucy Wangui Kabuu Kenya KABUU 2:19:34
W3 Meselech Melkamu Hayleyesus Ethiopia MELKAMU 2:21:01
W4 Aliaksandra Duliba Belarus DULIBA 2:21:29
W5 Askale Tafa Magarsa Ethiopia TAFA 2:21:31
W6 Mamitu Daska Moilsa Ethiopia DASKA 2:21:59
W7 Atsede Baysa Tesema Ethiopia BAYSA 2:22:02
W8 Aberu Kebede Shewaye Ethiopia KEBEDE 2:22:21
W9 Tadelech Bekele Alemu Ethiopia BEKELE 2:23:02
W10 Mulu Seboka Seyfu Ethiopia SEBOKA 2:23:12
W11 Firehiwot Dado Tufa Ethiopia DADO 2:23:15
W12 Abebech Afework Bekele Ethiopia AFEWORK 2:23:59
W13 Haydar Sultan Turkey SULTAN 2:25:07
W14 Azalech Masresha Woldeselases Ethiopia MASRESHA 2:25:34
W15 Ashete Bekere Dido Ethiopia BEKERE 2:26:00
W16 Aberu Mekuria Zennebe Ethiopia MEKURIA 2:26:07
W17 Mestawet Tufa Demissie Ethiopia TUFA 2:26:20
W18 Betelhem Moges Cherenet Ethiopia MOGES 2:26:42
W19 Rebecca Kangogo Chesir Kenya CHESIR 2:27:16
W20 Meseret Kitata Tolwak Ethiopia KITATA 2:27:26
W21 Fantu Eticha Jimma Ethiopia ETICHA 2:27:31
W22 Beata Nandjala Naigambo Namibia NAIGAMBO 2:27:54
W23 Megertu Ifa Geletu Ethiopia IFA 2:32:31
W24 Gladys Cherono Kiprono Kenya KIPRONO 66:48 H
W25 Shure Demissie Ware Ethiopia DEMISSIE 68:53 H

Mulu Seboka — Ethiopia, 30 years old, 2:23:13 pb (2014 Toronto), 73:20 half
Last two marathons: 1st 2014 Toronto (2:23:13), 1st 2014 Daegu (2:25:23)

Why she could win: Seboka is riding a four-marathon win streak, including three victories in 2014. The biggest of her wins last year was Dubai, which she achieved despite running a relatively pedestrian 2:25:01, the slowest winning time since 2007. Seboka’s troika of wins in Dubai, Daegu and Toronto earned her the #3 spot in our 2014 marathon rankings; she’s an experienced racer (34 marathons!) and as the defending champion, she has to be taken seriously.

Why she couldn’t: It’s hard to imagine Dubai going slow two years in a row and Seboka’s 2:23:13 pb doesn’t help her if some of the faster women try to attack a fast time.

Aselefech Mergia — Ethiopia, 29 years old, 2:19:31 pb (2012 Dubai), 67:21 half
Last two marathons: 
42nd 2012 Olympics (2:32:03); 1st 2012 Dubai (2:19:31)

Why she could win: Mergia has the fastest pb in the field, 2:19:31, which she ran on this course in 2012 to set the course record. She also has big marathon experience (bronze at World Champs in 2009, won London in 2010). Finally, Mergia will be celebrating her 30th birthday on race day; a victory would be a nice present.

Why she couldn’t: Mergia hasn’t run a marathon in 29 months, as she had a baby in 2013 and ran just two rather mediocre races in 2014 — a 73:49 half marathon in May and a 32:31 10K at Beach to Beacon in August. Mergia told the IAAF that she now believes she is as strong as she was pre-pregnancy, but admitted it was tough getting back in shape after the baby.

Lucy Kabuu of Kenya (r) sprints away from Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia to win the 2014 Freihofer's Run for Women 5-K in 15:20.1

Kabuu defeated Mamitu Daska (also running Dubai) to win the Freihofer’s Run for Women 5K last year in Albany. (Photo by Chris Lotsbom/Race Results Weekly)

Lucy Kabuu — Kenya, 30 years old, 2:19:34 pb (2012 Dubai), 66:09 half
Last two marathons: 3rd 2014 Tokyo (2:24:16), 24th 2013 World Championships (2:44:06)

Why she could win: Kabuu missed out on the win — and the course record — in Dubai by just three seconds to Mergia in 2012, and she’s continued to run well since then, taking third in her most recent marathon last February in Tokyo. Kabuu is an accomplished runner across several distances (she was Commonwealth Games champ at 5,000 and 10,000 in 2006) and her speedy 66:09 half marathon pb (#3 all-time on record-eligible courses; t-#6 overall) could help her run a really fast time on Friday. She was also fourth at the World Half Marathon Championships last year.

Why she couldn’t: Kabuu has never won a marathon (she’s 0-for-5 in her career) and though she has been running well over the past few years, several women in the field have more impressive recent resumes. Kabuu is extremely good at the half marathon but she was 1:08 behind Gladys Cherono at the World Half Champs last year. Cherono is in this race and could be a serious threat to Kabuu if the pace is quick.

Aberu Kebede — Ethiopia, 25 years old, 2:20:30 pb (2012 Berlin), 67:39 half
Last two marathons: 1st 2014 Frankfurt (2:22:21), 5th 2014 London (2:23:21)

Why she could win: Kebede wins races — it’s that simple. She’s run 13 marathons since debuting in 2010 and has won six of them, including major victories in Berlin (2010 and 2012) and Tokyo (2013). Kebede’s most recent marathon came in Frankfurt in October, where she ran 2:22:21 to win by 1:23.

Why she couldn’t: Kebede hasn’t run great at her biggest marathons. She won two of the weaker majors in Berlin and Tokyo but her best finish in London is fifth (she’s run it three times) and was 12th and 13th the two times she ran the World Championships marathon.

Meselech Melkamu — Ethiopia, 29 years old, 2:21:01 pb (2012 Frankfurt), 68:05 half
Last two marathons: DNF 2014 Frankfurt, 5th 2014 Boston

Why she could win: Melkamu was second last year and has a solid 2:21:01 pb. She’s got some stunning track pbs (14:31/29:53, the latter the second-fastest 10,000 ever run behind Wang Junxia‘s suspicious 29:31), a silver medal in the 10,000 from the 2009 World Championships and five individual medals from World XC. Melkamu has more talent than perhaps anyone in the women’s field.

Why she couldn’t: For the same reason she has yet to achieve major global success: she just may not be a marathon runner. Melkamu’s credentials and her 2:21:01 debut in Frankfurt three years ago suggested that she could be a major marathon star. But she’s failed to win any of her subsequent five marathons (DNFing twice) and hasn’t run faster than her debut.

Aliaksandra Duliba — Belarus, 27 years old, 2:21:29 pb (2014 Boston), 74:43 half
Last two marathons: 2nd 2014 Toronto (2:24:41), 6th 2014 Boston (2:21:29)

Why she could win: Duliba has made nice progress in the event since winning her debut in Los Angeles in 2013. She ran 2:23:44 to take fourth in Chicago later that year and beat Shalane Flanagan to record another pb in Boston in April.

Why she couldn’t: She lost convincingly to Mulu Seboka (also in the Dubai field) in Toronto three months ago and finished behind Melkamu in Boston.

Mamitu Daska — Ethiopia, 31 years old, 2:21:59 pb (2011 Frankfurt), 68:07
Last two marathons: 4th 2014 Shanghai (2:29:35), 4th 2013 Frankfurt (2:23:23)

Why she could win: Daska tore up the American roads last year, winning Cherry Blossom, Bolder Boulder, the BAA 10K and the BAA Half Marathon while adding seconds at the Healthy Kidney 10K, Freihofer’s Run for Women and the New York Mini 10K. She also won this race in 2010.

Why she couldn’t: Most of that success came at distances well short of a marathon (just two races over 10K); in her lone marathon last year, Daska only ran 2:29 for fourth in Shanghai. She hasn’t come within a minute of her 2:21:59 pb before or since.

Atsede Baysa — Ethiopia, 27 years old, 2:22:03 pb (2012 Chicago), 67:33 half
Last two marathons: 5th 2014 Shanghai (2:31:44), 2nd 2014 Lanzhou (2:37:55)

Why she could win: Baysa has performed well at some of the world’s biggest marathons, winning Chicago in 2010 and 2012 and finishing in the top four at London twice. Two years ago, she posted two top-five major finishes and won the Barcelona Half Marathon in a fast 67:33.

Why she couldn’t: In three marathons last year, Baysa couldn’t break 2:31. This will be her fourth marathon in exactly 11 months.

Firehiwot Dado — Ethiopia, 31 years old, 2:23:15 pb (2011 New York), 68:35 half
Last two marathons: 
7th 2014 New York (2:28:36), 1st 2014 Prague (2:23:34)

Why she could win: No one has a more impressive marathon victory on their resume than Dado’s 2011 win in New York. She was third in Dubai last year and won Prague in May before taking seventh in New York.

Why she couldn’t: Dado has just the 10th-best PR in the field and though she did win Prague last year, other women enter Dubai in better form than her. This is also her fourth marathon in a one-year span.

Wacera and her Kenyan teammates at the 2014 World Half Marathon Champs

Cherono (far left) and Kabuu (second from right) were part of a Kenyan team that swept the top five places at last year’s World Half Marathon Championships.

Gladys Cherono — Kenya, 31 years old, debut, 66:48 half

Why she could win: While it’s hard to predict who exactly will become a great marathoner, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be a good 10,000 runner or a good half marathoner. Cherono, the 2013 World silver medalist at 10,000 and the 2014 World Half Marathon champion, happens to be both. At 31, a step up to the marathon seems to be a logical move for Cherono, and with its flat, straightforward course, Dubai is an excellent place to make a debut (hence the three straight debut winners on the men’s side).

Why she couldn’t: As we said in the previous paragraph, it’s hard to predict marathon success. Cherono certainly looks like a potential marathon stud, but we won’t really know until she crosses the finish line on Friday.

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