Organizer Preview: Jos Hermens Says Bekele Is In Best Marathon Shape Of Life, 2:04-Low Would Be A Good Result

Press Release
January 21, 2015

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: distance running fans around the world will have their focus firmly on the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon and its strongest field ever. Both course records are targets in the race which has become firmly established among the world’s leading running events. Ethiopia’s superstar Kenenisa Bekele headlines the men’s list which features 20 athletes with personal bests of sub2:10. Half a dozen of them have run faster than 2:06. The women’s field shows unprecedented depth in a city marathon regarding the number of athletes who have broken 2:28. A grand total of 23 have personal bests that are faster. 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. Including shorter distance races, a total of 25,000 runners have entered the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon which is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

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 times of sub 2:05 each time. However, 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. Yet the runner centre-stage in the build-up is the 5,000 and 10,000 m world record holder Kenenisa Bekele. “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 in Chicago in 2:05:51.

Article continues below player.

“This is a very important race for me. I want to improve my time. I am confident to make history here, but you can never say you will win – you can’t be sure, because otherwise it would not be a race,” said Kenenisa Bekele, whose rivals include Lelisa Desisa. The Ethiopian was one of those winning debutants here, running 2:04:45 two years ago.

“My training has gone well,” said Bekele and his manager Jos Hermens confirms that “He is better prepared than before for his third marathon”. Bekele had trained just seven weeks before he competed in Chicago and missed his goal of improving his PB. “When he was running on the track he could train for two months and then break a world record. But this approach does not work in the marathon. After Chicago Kenenisa knew that he had to change something. For ten years he had the same training rhythm. He needed something new and different impulses. This is why I brought him together with Renato Canova. And it is going well,” said Hermens, explaining the switch to the Italian coach. The manager hopes for a better performance from Bekele than in Chicago. “If he runs a low 2:04, improving by around one minute that would be fine.”

The course record of Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero, who ran 2:04:23 in 2012, is the main goal. But Haile Gebrselassie’s national record of 2:03:59 could also become an objective on Friday. The great Ethiopian will be in Dubai to watch the race he has won three times in a row from 2008. “I have not spoken to Haile about Dubai, but I saw his races when he was competing here. Every race is different,” said Bekele.

Bekele is ready to follow any pace on Friday. And it could become even faster than expected. “We don’t want to talk too much about the world record, but it is always a possibility. The half marathon split time we will target will be in that region,” said Peter Connerton, the Event Director of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. “I believe that one day we will break the world record here, but I don’t know when it will happen. We have the fastest and flattest course in the world – and we get the best runners. This time we have Kenenisa.” On Dubai’s superflat course there is just one corner, two turns and four bends to navigate for the runners.

The course record is also the goal for the women’s race and the current record holder looks ready to attack it. “If all goes well I can run under 2:20 and break the course record. I am as strong as before maternity leave,” said Aselefech Mergia, who gave birth to her daughter Sena in July 2013. A year before she ran the Dubai course record of 2:19:31 which remains her personal best. It took the 30 year-old quite some time to regain her form after giving birth. “It was difficult to get back in shape,” explained Mergia, who weighed 73 kilos by the end of her pregnancy. “It was tough to get rid of the kilos, but now I am back at 51,” she said.

“To run the Frankfurt Marathon in October was an option, but my shape was not good enough. I really only wanted to come back once I was fully fit again. Now I’ve been able to train well for four months, so I am ready. My goal is to win the race,” said Mergia, who would earn prize money of $200,000 if she succeeds, the biggest payday in marathon running.

“I am confident, but of course I know that it will be tough. Everyone who is coming to Dubai is competitive,” said Mergia, who will face the defending champion, fellow-Ethiopian Mulu Seboka, and Lucy Kabuu. The Kenyan was second in 2012, crossing the line just three seconds behind Mergia in 2:19:34. Four more runners have personal bests of sub 2:22.

Top Contenders, Men:
Lelisa Desisa ETH 2:04:45
Berhanu Shiferaw ETH 2:04:48
Feyisa Lilesa ETH 2:04:52
Kenenisa Bekele ETH 2:05:04
Bazu Worku ETH 2:05:25
Girmay Birhanu ETH 2:05:49
Chele Dechase ETH 2:06:33
Limenih Getachew ETH 2:06:49
Tebalu Zawude ETH 2:07:10
Belay Asefa ETH 2:07:10
Deribe Robi ETH 2:07:16
Amanuel Mesel ERI 2:08:17
Habtamu Assefa ETH 2:08:28
Adugna Takele ETH 2:08:37
Sisay Lemma ETH 2:09:02
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie ETH 2:09:08
Ezikiel Chebii KEN 2:09:15
Asmare Workneh ETH 2:09:20
Vitaly Shafar UKR 2:09:37
Afewerk Mesfin ETH 2:09:47
Andualem Belay ETH Debut
Mule Wasihum ETH Debut
Abde Fufa ETH Debut

Aselefech Mergia ETH 2:19:31
Lucy Kabuu KEN 2:19:34
Meselech Melkamu ETH 2:21:01
Aliaksandra Duliba BLR 2:21:29
Askale Tafa ETH 2:21:31
Mamitu Daska ETH 2:21:59
Atsede Baysa ETH 2:22:02
Aberu Kebede ETH 2:22:21
Tadelech Bekele ETH 2:23:02
Mulu Seboka ETH 2:23:12
Firehiwot Dado ETH 2:23:15
Isabellah Andersson SWE 2:23:41
Abebech Afework ETH 2:23:59
Haydar Sultan TUR 2:25:07
Azalech Masresha ETH 2:25:34
Ashete Bekere ETH 2:26:00
Aberu Mekuria ETH 2:26:07
Mestawet Tufa ETH 2:26:20
Betelhem Moges ETH 2:26:42
Rebecca Chesire KEN 2:27:16
Meseret Kitata ETH 2:27:26
Fantu Eticha ETH 2:27:31
Beata Nandjala NAM 2:27:54
Gladys Cherono KEN Debut
Shure Demissie ETH Debut

Want More? Join The Supporters Club Today
Support independent journalism and get:
  • Exclusive Access to VIP Supporters Club Content
  • Bonus Podcasts Every Friday
  • Free Shirt (Annual Subscribers)
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Enhanced Message Boards