Ayale Abshero Arrives As New Marathon Star With A 2:04:23 Debut Win In Dubai
39km Surge Decimates What Was Left Of What Ended Up Being By Far The Fastest Men's Marathon Field In History
Women's Race Also Makes History, As Three Women Break 2:20 In Same Race For 1st Time, Led By Aselefech Mergia's 2:19:31
January 27, 2012
In the marathon, the story of 2011 was that the men's course records fell at
all six five of the majors - Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London and New York plus the World Champs (Editor's note: Abel Kirui had the largest margin of victory at the World Champs in 2011 but did not break his 2009 course record ... but a 2:03:42 course record was run in Frankfurt - a non-major - to make up for it). Well, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, which features the largest first prize in the world of marathoning at $250,000, is considered by some to be the 7th major, so it was only appropriate that the 2012
marathon season got underway in familiar fashion, as Dubai's course record - Haile Gebrselassie's 2:04:53 from 2008 - was beaten.
But one thing was different about Friday's record performance - it was produced by an Ethiopian. 2011 belonged squarely to the Kenyans, as all six of the performances at the majors plus Frankfurt's 2:03:42 went to a Kenyan, but in Dubai the top three finishers were Ethiopian and all three broke 2:05.
Hello world, meet Ayele Abshero.
The 21-year-old is the world's newest marathon star, as he produced the fastest marathon debut in history on a record-eligible course, destroying what would end up as the greatest marathon field in history (based on finishing times) with a surge with 3km left. Abshero decimated the lead pack and gave himself an impressive 2:04:23 finishing time, making him the 6th fastest man in history (4th fastest on a non-aided course).
Modest Start - Fast Finish
The race started under mild but humid conditions (temps in 50s, 82% humidity). After a slowish opening first 3k of 9:02 (which is basicaly 2:07-flat pace), the pace accelerated and a large group of 25 dreamers (including the rabbits) went through the halfway on course record pace at 1:02:22. The pace remained at a sub-2:05 clip for the rest of the race, and slowly the field started to winnow itself down to six main contenders. It shouldn't have a been a real surprise that the pack thinned out, as coming into Friday's race, only 12 men in history had ever run under 2:05.
First, 5-time major winner Martin Lel was gone (by about the 30km mark). Then it was 2009 Boston marathon champ Deriba Merga who was gone. With 10km remaining, the lead pack was down to six and five of the six were Ethiopians. When would someone make a move? With just over 3km to go, Abshero moved, and when he did, he did so lethally.
None of the others in the lead pack had much of a response except for Marcos Geneti. Geneti, who had won Los Angeles last March in 2:06:31 in his debut, tried to go with Abshero for a very brief while, but Abshero soon pulled clear as no one could match his magical move. Abshero's move was nothing short of spectacular. The leaders had run 2:04:49 pace for 39km and then Abshero was still feeling strong enough to produce by far the fastest km of the race - a 2:46 (that's 1:56:44 marathon pace)!!!
By the time 40km was reached in 1:58:07, barring a total blowup, the victory was clearly Abshero's. There would be no cracking for the Ethiopian who turned 21 on December 28th, as he'd come home with final kilometer splits of 2:53 and 2:52.
From 39km to 42km, the guy ran an 8:29 split. That's 9:03 3,200 pace. Think about that for a minute.
Who is Abshero? Well, the 21-year-old is clearly a top talent dating to his junior days who finally seemingly has realized he's a star on the road - not the track. Friday's performance was by far his best on the senior circuit, but Abshero made a name for himself as a junior by excelling at the junior World Cross-Country Championships. In 2008, he was the runner-up behind 2011's 10,000 world champion Ibrahim Jeilan. Later that year, he first showed the road race magic that would resurface on Friday in Dubai when he beat Kenenisa Bekele in a 15km road race by running 42:17. In 2009 in Amman, he lived up the favorite billing and won the junior World Cross title. Later that year, he got his 5,000 PR down to 13:11 but after that his career hit a bit of a lull, as in 2010 he only managed a 13:18. Last year, he was even worse on the track and he only ran 13:32/27:48 (17th at Pre!).
But last year, he did have one very strong performance and it came on the road - a 59:42 half marathon in March. In 2010, he also had set a 15km PR on the road (42:02). We bet after Friday's run that we won't see this guy run on the track for a long time, if ever again.
Record Fastest Times All The Way Down The Line
Abshero was clearly the best on Friday in Dubai, but what happened behind him was arguably just as special, as the depth of finishers was astounding.
All told, four men broke 2:05 in the race, eight broke 2:06, 10 broke 2:07, 14 broke 2:08, 15 broke 2:09, and 17 broke 2:10 - all records as fastest-ever times for places were recorded in spots three through 17. Before Friday, the fastest a man had ever run in a marathon to finish fifth was 2:06:14. In Dubai, a guy ran 2:05:42 and was 8th. Similarly, before Friday, the fastest a man had ever run to finish 10th in a race was 2:08:38. In Dubai, a guy ran more than two minutes faster - 2:06:29 - and finished 10th.
The man who tried to go with Abshero, Geneti, ended up being caught by Dino Kemal for second, as Kemal ran 2:04:50 to Geneti's 2:04:54. A shame in some ways, as second place paid out twice as much prize money ($100,000 versus $50,000). Finishing fourth, also under 2:05, was Kenya's Jonatahn Maiyo (2:04:56).
Below you will find the top 30 results (Note: The IAAF is reporting that Martin Lel ended up 35th in 2:34:57). For the top 10, we list the prize money as well, not including time bonuses. The women's recap is below the men's results.
2012 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon Results
Fastest Marathon Finishes In History Prior To Dubai 2012 From http://www.arrs.net/BT_Mara.htm)
Women's Race - Super-Fast And Super-Deep As Well
In many ways, the women's race imitated the men's, as the times were super-fast and super-deep.
27-year-old Ethiopian Aselefech Mergia successfully defended her title by taking the lead from Kenya's Lucy Kabuu in the last half mile and holding on for the win in the sprint finish. Mergia, the 2008 World Half Marathon bronze medallist and the 2009 World Championships marathon bronze medallist, won in a massive new personal best of three-plus minutes with a 2:19:31 (previous PR 2:22:38).
The 27-year-old Kabuu, a two-time Olympic 10,000 participant, made people wonder what took her so long to make her marathon debut, as her time of 2:19:34 was the second-fastest debut in history, only behind the great Paula Radcliffe (2:18:56). Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba, who was third in LA and second in Toronto last year, was third in 2:19:52.
In the process, the women made history as well, as it was the first time three women broke 2:20 in the same race. Additionally, spots three through nine were the fastest 3-9 finishes in history.
A group of nine women had hit halfway in 69:42-3 as eleven women in total went out in under 70-flat.
2012 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon Results
Fastest Marathon Finishes In History Prior To Dubai 2012 (From http://www.arrs.net/BT_Mara.htm)