January 8, 2013
Two of Ethiopia’s leading marathon talents will be competing at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on 24th January: Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Hailu head a strong women’s elite field. With nine runners owning personal bests of sub 2:24, this is among the best elite fields ever assembled in the history of the event, which has consistently made headlines for outstanding performances. On the superflat 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. The Standard Chartered DubaiMarathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
On occasion the women’s results in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon have been overshadowed by express performances from the men. This is unlikely to be the case for the latest edition on 24th January. “Such is the quality of the field, there is every chance that the women’s results in this year’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon might just outshine 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: they have almost identical personal bests, running these times on their debut at the distance in the autumn of 2012: Hailu won the Amsterdam Marathon in a course record of 2:21:09 and a week later Melkamu became the Frankfurt Marathon champion with 2:21:01, a course record as well. Both times are among the fastest debuts ever by a woman.
While there are similarities in their development since 2012 – both ran their third and most recent marathon at the World Championships in Moscow but dropped out in the heat – the career background of the two women is different. The 28 year-old Melkamu had been one of the best long distance track runners in the world before turning her attentions to the road. At 10,000 m she is still the second fastest ever and holds the African record (29:53.80). “In the future I want to reach times in the marathon that are as good as the results I achieved in the 10,000 metres,” Melkamu has said.
Meseret Hailu is five years younger and 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 Kavarna (Bulgaria). More success at the distance has followed with Hailu breaking the Ethiopian half marathon record with 66:56 in February 2013. Her recent form has been promising with fourth place in 69:05 at the New Delhi Half Marathon on 15th December.
In Dubai both Melkamu and Hailu should have personal best times in their sights. Yet one woman in the field has run faster than either of them although the passage of time may mean that outright victory is not a realistic challenge for fellow Ethiopian Berhane Adere. Now 40, she has a personal best of 2:20:42 and won the Standard Chartered Dubai title six years ago in 2:22:42. This certainly does not mean that Adere’s days of challenging for honours are over – given good form, the world masters or veterans record, currently held by Germany’s Irina Mikitenko with 2:24:54, could come under pressure.
Mamitu Daska and Firehiwot Dado are two more world-class runners from Ethiopia. Daska was added to the field just a few days ago and the 2010 Dubai champion is said to be in good form. Her fastest time is 2:21:59, achieved in winning the Frankfurt title in 2011. Dado triumphed in the New York Marathon in the same year with 2:23:15 which remains her personal best. They both ran a marathon in the autumn:
Daska was fourth in Frankfurt, running 2:23:23 in very windy conditions while Dado finished 14th in New York in 2:38:06.
Ehitu Kiros of Ethiopia (2:23:39), Isabellah Andersson (Sweden/2:23:41), Mula Seboka (2:23:48) and Amane Gobena (both Ethiopia/2:23:50) complete the sub 2:24 contingent on the start list. Kiros and Gobena have good memories of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon from 2013. They both set personal bests on that occasion, finishing second and third respectively, while Andersson broke the current Swedish record in taking third place in 2011.