2017 Dubai Marathon Women’s Preview: Toronto Champ Shure Demise (2:20 PB) & Amsterdam Champ Meselech Melkamu (2:21 PB) Battle 66:14 Half Marathoner Worknesh Degefa in Her Debut

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By LetsRun.com
January 18, 2017

Unlike the men’s race, the winners of the women’s race in recent years at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon have been fairly accomplished runners. Last year, the race was won by 2013 champ/2014 LRC World #1 Tirfi Tsegaye, while 2015 saw 2010 London champ Aselefech Mergia win for the third time in Dubai. That could change this year, however, as Tsegaye is not back to defend her title, and there’s no headliner that comes anywhere close to having the accomplishments of Kenenisa Bekele in the men’s race.Instead what we’ve got is a relatively deep field (four women who have broken 2:23 and a total of nine under 2:25) of athletes looking to make a name for themselves. Ethiopians

Instead what we’ve got is a relatively deep field (four women who have broken 2:23 and a total of nine under 2:25) of athletes looking to make a name for themselves and take home the largest prize in the sport ($200,000 for 1st place). Ethiopians Shure Demise (2:20:59 pb) and Meselech Melkamu (2:21:01 pb) have the fastest personal bests on paper and have each finished in the top four in Dubai in the past, while there are several other women — including Ottawa champ Koren Jelela (2:22:43 pb) and Mumbai/Vienna champ Shuko Genemo (2:24:31 pb) who will be looking to break through. Worknesh Degefa (66:14 HM pb, #8 all-time) will also be making her marathon debut in Dubai.

Not only will the winner become extremely wealthy, she’ll also capture the biggest win of her career: no one in the field has ever won Dubai or an Abbott World Marathon Major.

We break down the women’s field below.

LRC 2017 Dubai Marathon Men’s Preview: Can One of These Men Take Down Kenenisa Bekele? * LRC Kenenisa Bekele vs. the World Record: Will Kenenisa Bekele Become The First Man In History To Hold The 5,000, 10,000 and Marathon World Records at the Same Time on Friday? * LRC All 2017 Dubai Marathon coverage

What: 2017 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon

When: Friday, January 20, 6:30 a.m. UAE Standard Time (9:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, January 19)

Where: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

How to watch: Live on Eversport.TV beginning at 9:20 p.m. ET on Thursday, January 19

Prize money

1st$200,000
2nd$80,000
3rd$40,000
4th$20,000
5th$13,000
6th$12,000
7th$11,500
8th$11,000
9th$10,500
10th$10,000

There is a $250,000 bonus for a world record.

2017 women’s elite field*

NameCountryPBComment
Shure DemiseEthiopia2:20:592-time defending Toronto champ was 4th in Dubai in ’15
Meselech MelkamuEthiopia2:21:013rd Dubai, 1st Hamburg, 1st Amsterdam in ’16
Koren JelelaEthiopia2:22:43Won Ottawa in May 2016
Tadelech BekeleEthiopia2:22:51Runner-up to Demise in Toronto in Oct.; 7th in Dubai in ’15
Yebrgual MeleseEthiopia2:23:23’15 Houston champ was 5th in Paris + Chicago in ’16
Worknesh EdesaEthiopia2:24:04Considering she raced Xiamen on Jan. 2, she could scratch here
Belaynesh OljiraEthiopia2:24:215th in ’13, the same year she earned World XC + 10k bronze
Shuko GenemoEthiopia2:24:31Picked up wins in Mumbai + Vienna last year
Ruti AgaEthiopia2:24:412nd Vienna, 3rd Berlin in ’16
Roza DerejeEthiopia2:26:18Won marathons in Odense (Denmark) + Shanghai in ’16
Hirut TibebuEthiopia2:30:587th in Prague last year
Megertu IfaEthiopia2:32:3110th last year
Tigist TeshomeEthiopia2:32:58Coming off PR in Hengshui last year
Sule UturaEthiopia2:34:0830:55 10k runner ran 2:34 in debut last year in Paris
Anne-Mari HyrylainenFinland2:34:12Ran PR at age 37 last year in Hamburg
Jenna ChallenorSouth Africa2:37:12PR’d last year in Nagoya
Charlotte KarlssonSweden2:42:293rd in Stockholm last year
Worknesh DegefaEthiopiadebutFinally debuting after running 23 HMs (66:14 PR). Won Rome-Ostia + New Delhi HMs in ’16

*entries subject to change

The Top Two Women on Paper

Going strictly by personal best, two women are clearly ahead of the field in Dubai: Ethiopians Shure Demise and Meselech Melkamu, who are both at least 1:42 faster than every other entrant.

Shure Demise — Ethiopia, 20 years old, 2:20:59 pb (2015 Dubai), 68:53 half
Marathons since start of 2015: 4th 2015 Dubai (2:20:59), 8th 2015 Boston (2:27:14), 1st 2015 Toronto (2:23:37), 6th 2016 Tokyo (2:25:04), 1st 2016 Toronto (2:25:16)

Demise, who turns 21 on Saturday, has already run five marathons, and her results tend to fall in line with the prestige of the race. In her two smallest races (2015 and 2016 Toronto), she’s won, while in her two majors, she’s run okay but hasn’t been competitive for the win. In between is her debut in Dubai (neither a small race nor a World Marathon Major, though it probably should be) in which she ran extremely fast and finished fourth. Like many athletes who run fast in Dubai, Demise has yet to approach that time since, but it’s not like she’s been horrible since then. This is Dubai, so we expect a few women to run fast, but the field is not as deep as the past two years. If she can replicate her 2015 performance of 2:20:59, that could be enough for a $200,000 win.

Meselech Melkamu — Ethiopia, 31 years old, 2:21:01 pb (2012 Frankfurt), 68:05 half
Marathons since start of 2015: 1st 2015 Daegu (2:27:24), 5th 2015 Ottawa (2:26:45), 6th 2015 Saitama (2:33:59), 3rd 2016 Dubai (2:22:29), 1st 2016 Hamburg (2:21:54), 1st 2016 Amsterdam (2:23:21)
Prep race: 50:13 for 3rd at Montferland Run (15k) on December 4

Melkamu, the fourth woman in history to break 30:00 for 10,000 meters on the track, has transitioned well to the marathon since taking up the distance in 2012, collecting wins in Frankfurt, Daegu, Hamburg and Amsterdam. Her 2016 season was the best of her career, as those victories in Hamburg and Amsterdam (plus a third in Dubai) propelled her to #6 in LRC’s world rankings. But as nice as those victories were (she finished as the only woman with two times in the world’s top 10 last year), she has yet to win a major. Officially, Dubai isn’t a major, but a win here would be Melkamu’s biggest yet, both in terms of significance and prize money. She’s already come close to a victory in Dubai on two occasions (she was second in 2014 and third last year); is this finally the year for Melkamu?

One concern: her prep race, where she was third. Though the two women she lost to at December’s Monterfland Run are both studs (Olympic silver medallist Eunice Kirwa and two-time marathon world champ Edna Kiplagat), Melkamu didn’t finish anywhere close to them and ran just 50:13 for 15k (winner was 48:37). 50:13 is 2:21:15 marathon pace, which may not even be good enough for the win in Dubai — even though she was running about 1/3 of the distance.

The Debutant

Degefa winning in New Delhi. Photo courtesy of ADHM / Procam International.

Degefa winning in New Delhi. Photo courtesy of ADHM / Procam International.

Worknesh Degefa — Ethiopia, 26 years old, debut, 66:14 half
Prep race: 
67:42 for 1st at Delhi Half Marathon on November 20

Since emerging onto the professional scene, Degefa has run almost exclusively half marathons: 23 in total, and no races at any other distance since 2013. That’s proven to be a successful strategy so far, as she’s broken 69:00 13 times and owns a 66:14 personal best, putting her #8 on the all-time list. Most recently, she took down a stacked field in New Delhi in November that included three of the top four finishers at last year’s World Half Marathon Championships, running 67:42 despite heavy air pollution.

But the big money is in the marathon (although the win in Delhi netted her $27,000), and at 26, Degefa has finally decided the time is right to tackle 26.2 miles. Ideally, Degefa will follow in the footsteps of Gladys Cherono, another half marathon stud who ran 2:20:03 in her debut in Dubai two years ago. Degefa’s HM pb is actually faster than Cherono’s was when she made her debut (66:48), though Cherono was the reigning World Half Marathon champion. A time in the low 2:20s wouldn’t surprise us from Degefa on Friday, but every runner adapts differently to the marathon.

The Challengers

  • Koren Jelela — Ethiopia, 30 years old (2:22:43 pb): Jelela has posted some solid results in her career, most recently a 2:27:06 win in Ottawa in May 2016, but her PR is over five years old at this point. It would be hard to envision her making the leap to top-tier marathoner in her 30s.
  • Tadelech Bekele — Ethiopia, 25 years old (2:22:51 pb): If Shure Demise is one of the favorites, Bekele has to at least be mentioned as she was second to Demise in Toronto last fall (1:13 behind). Bekele’s best results so far in her career are a pair of fourth-place finishes in Berlin in 2014 and 2015, though she set her PR in Dubai in 2015 (she was seventh in a fast race).
  • Yebrgual Melese — Ethiopia, 26 years old (2:23:23 pb): Melese, who was 14th in her debut in Dubai in 2014, put together a big 2015, collecting wins in Houston and Prague and a second in Chicago, but regressed last year, running 2:32:06 for fifth in Paris and 2:24:49 for fifth in Chicago. If she can get back to her 2015 form, she could have a shot here.
  • Belaynesh Oljira — Ethiopia, 26 years old (2:24:21 pb): Oljira was third at Worlds in the 10k in 2013, the same year she placed fifth in Dubai (2:25:01) and third at World XC in Bydgoszcz. Though she hasn’t been able to recapture that form, she was ninth at World XC and ninth at Worlds in the 10k in 2015 before failing to make the Ethiopian Olympic team last summer (she was seventh at the 10k trials and ran track SBs of 14:42/30:50). Now it’s back to the marathon, a distance she hasn’t raced since 2014, when she was a disastrous 27th in Dubai (she failed to break three hours) and a far more respectable 10th in Boston (in a PR of 2:24:21).
  • Shuko Genemo — Ethiopia, 21 years old (2:24:31 pb): Dubai will be the biggest race of Genemo’s life to this point as she’s mostly run second- and third-tier marathons in her young career. A good sign: she won in Mumbai last January (2:27:50) and followed that up with a nearly three-minute PR to win Vienna in April (2:24:31). On Friday, she’ll find out what she can do against better competition.
  • Ruti Aga — Ethiopia, 23 years old (2:24:41 pb): The 2012 world junior 5k silver medallist, Aga dropped out of her debut in Osaka last year but proceeded to notch respectable finishes in Vienna (2nd, 2:25:27) and Berlin (3rd, 2:24:41).
  • Roza Dereje — Ethiopia, age unknown (2:26:18 pb): Very little is known about Dereje, whose first result does not appear until 2015, but she’s made rapid progress since debuting with a 2:34:02 in Algiers in 2015. She lowered her PR to 2:31:16 with a win at the Hans Christian Andersen Marathon in Denmark in October 2016 before making an even bigger breakthrough with a 2:26:18 win just 28 days later in Shanghai. If she wins in Dubai, we imagine we’ll learn a lot more about her.
  • Worknesh Edesa — Ethiopia, 24 years old (2:24:04 pb): She’s on the entry list we received from race organizers but we’d be shocked if she started considering she ran 2:26 in Xiamen on January 2, just 18 days before Dubai.

LRC Prediction: Melkamu or Degefa should win here. Choosing between them isn’t easy. Melkamu was great in 2016 except her prep race makes us a bit nervous. We’ll go with Degefa as we know her prep race was great and several Ethiopian men have won in Dubai in their debut.

Talk about the 2017 Dubai Marathon on our messageboard. MB: Great Breaking News: Bekele Is Healthy and Going For The WR – Plans on going out faster than anyone in history