January 20, 2016
Marathons don’t get more exciting than the women’s race at the 2015 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia, a two-time Dubai champ running her first marathon since returning from maternity leave outkicked Kenyan debutant Gladys Cherono by one second to earn the $200,000 first-place prize. That one-second gap wound up costing Cherono $120,000 as she took home “only” $80,000 for finishing as the runner-up. Behind them, eight additional women ran 2:23:43 or faster, making it the deepest top 10 in marathon history.
Neither Mergia nor Cherono will be returning to the 2016 edition to be held on Friday (Thursday night U.S. time) as both will be running London in April instead, but the field in Dubai is still deep and full of talent. 2013 champ Tirfi Tsegaye, LetsRun’s #1 ranked marathoner of 2014 (unranked in 2015), headlines the field, and she’s joined by Meselech Melkamu (whose 29:53 10,000 pb is #2 all-time) and 2:21 women Mulu Seboka (2014 champ) and Mamitu Daska (2010 champ). In all, 10 women in the field have broken 2:24.
We give you the details below before previewing the women’s race. Men’s preview here.
What: 2016 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon
When: Friday, January 22, 6:30 a.m. UAE Standard Time (9:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, January 21)
Where: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
How to watch: Free live online stream here
Prize money (men’s and women’s are the same):
There is a $100,000 bonus for a world record.
2016 women’s elite field*
Name Country Name on bib PB
Tirfi Tsegaye Beyene Ethiopia TSEGAYE 2:20:18
Meselech Melkamu Haileyesus Ethiopia MELKAMU 2:21:01
Mulu Seboka Seyfu Ethiopia SEBOKA 2:21:56
Mamitu Daska Molisa Ethiopia DASKA 2:21:59
Marima Mohammed Hasen Bahrain MARIMA 2:23:06
Gulume Tollesa Chala Ethiopia TOLLESA 2:23:12
Dinknesh Mekash Tefera Ethiopia MEKASH 2:23:12
Yebrgual Melese Arage Ethiopia MELESE 2:23:23
Meseret Mengistu Biru Ethiopia MENGISTU 2:23:26
Abebech Afework Bekele Ethiopia AFEWORK 2:23:33
Fatuma Sado Dergo Ethiopia SADO 2:24:16
Mestawet Tufa Demissie Ethiopia TUFA 2:24:45
Aberu Mekuria Zennebe Ethiopia MEKURIA 2:25:58
Asahssah Malika Morocco MALIKA 2:28:01
Etaferahu Wodaj Temesgen Ethiopia WODAJ 2:29:24
Katarzyna Kowalska Poland KOWALSKA 2:29:41
Megertu Ifa Geletu Ethiopia IFA 2:32:31
Eunice Chebichii Chumba Kenya CHUMBA 2:33:12
Fasika Metaferiya Zenebe Ethiopia METARFERIYA 2:39:30
Sutume Asefa Kebede Ethiopia ASEFA 68:23 H
Amane Beriso Shankule Ethiopia BERISO 68:43 H
Waganesh Mekashav Amare Ethiopia MEKASHAV 68:49 H
Afera Godfay Berha Ethiopia GODFAY 69:51 H
Meseret Legese Biratu Ethiopia LEGESE 70:12 H
Shitaye Eshete Habtegebrel Bahrain ESHETE 70:14 H
Hiwot Gebrekidan Gebremaryam Ethiopia GEBREKIDAN
Desi Jisa Mekonin Bahrain JISA
*entries subject to change
The Former Champs
Mulu Seboka — Ethiopia, 31 years old, 2:21:56 pb (2015 Dubai), 69:11 half
Last two marathons: 5th 2015 Chicago (2:24:40); 6th 2015 Dubai (2:21:56)
Seboka, who won all three of her marathons in 2014 (Dubai, Daegu and Toronto) faced tougher competition in 2015, and though she was able to run a 79-second PR in Dubai last year, that was only good for sixth place in a fast race. Seboka’s most recent marathon, a sixth-place showing in Chicago in October (2:24:40) didn’t go particularly well but given that she’s either PR’d or won in every single other race she’s run over the past two years, she’s a serious threat to contend for the win on Friday.
Tirfi Tsegaye — Ethiopia, 31 years old, 2:20:18 pb (2014 Berlin), 67:42 half
Last two marathons: 8th 2015 World Champs (2:30:54); 3rd 2015 London (2:23:41)
Tsegaye has the fastest pb in the field by 43 seconds and if we were giving odds, we’d install her as the favorite (though it would be close between her and Seboka). It’s not just her pb that makes her dangerous. She’s also been consistently in the hunt at the majority of her 16 career marathons: she’s finished in the top three in 11 of them, with victories in six of them, including one in Dubai (2013). Since the start of 2013, she’s won Dubai, Tokyo (2014) and Berlin (2014) and has broken 2:24 four times.
More recently, Tsegaye was 8th at Worlds last year and 3rd against a competitive field in London. The main reason to be concerned about Tsgegaye is that the odds of any one specific individual are going to be low in a race like Dubai because there are so many quality women. She may only have a 20-30% chance of winning, but compared to the rest of the field, that’s pretty good.
Mamitu Daska — Ethiopia, 32 years old, 2:21:59 pb (2011 Frankfurt), 66:28 half
Last two marathons: 4th 2014 Shanghai (2:29:35); 4th 2013 Frankfurt (2:23:23)
The 32-year-old Daska hasn’t raced a marathon in 14 months, but she demonstrated her fitness on a variety of surfaces last year. She began by running a 66:28 half marathon at the RAK Half in February (putting her #8 on the all-time list on record-eligble courses) and followed that up by taking 8th at World XC, running a 14:52 5k on the roads, PR’ing at 10,000 on the track (30:55) and claiming wins at the TCS World 10K in Bangalore (31:57), the All-Africa Games half marathon (72:42) and the Great Ethiopian Run (32:17), the latter a race she won by 54 seconds over 2015 Houston/Prague champ and Chicago runner-up Yebrgual Melese (who is also entered in Dubai).
Cleaning up at the intermediate distances is always a good sign and with 10 career marathons under her belt, Daska is not wanting for experience at the 26.2-mile distance. She seems primed for a good run in the marathon, and given the talent Ethiopia has in the distances on the track right now, the marathon is the best shot for Daska — who has never made a World/Olympic team — to compete in Rio. If she can win Dubai, she’ll have a strong case for a spot.
The Second-Fastest 10,000 Runner Ever
Meselech Melkamu — Ethiopia, 30 years old, 2:21:01 pb (2012 Frankfurt), 68:05 half
Last two marathons: 6th 2015 Saitama (2:33:59); 5th 2015 Ottawa (2:26:45)
Yes, Melkamu, not Tirunesh Dibaba or Meseret Defar or any of the other Ethiopian greats, occupies the #2 spot on the all-time list at 10,000 meters (29:53), behind only Wang Junxia‘s (highly questionable) 29:31. Yet despite that talent, Melkamu has only one global outdoor medal (Linet Masai pipped her for gold at Worlds in 2009), though she has collected five bronze medals from the World Cross Country Championships.
Melkamu’s marathon debut in 2012 was terrific, as she ran 2:21:01 to win Frankfurt, and she followed that up with a solid 5th-place showing in London (2013), a runner-up finish in Dubai (2014) and another 5th in Boston (2014). She started 2015 off well by winning in Daegu (2:27:24) but decided to come back and run Ottawa just seven weeks later, where she struggled and finished 5th (2:26:54). Her most recent marathon was a disaster as she ran by far her slowest time of 2:33:59 to take 6th in Saitama, Japan, on November 15. Now she’s tackling Dubai with less than 10 weeks of preparation.
Melkamu clearly has the potential to succeed in Dubai, but unless she ran Saitama as a workout (which would be odd), it doesn’t make sense to pick someone to win a marathon when she’s only two months removed from a 2:33. Even after racing at a high level for a decade-plus, Melkamu should have something left in the tank (after all, she did win a marathon last April) but she’s not doing herself any favors with her odd racing schedule.
Coming off a Huge 2015
Yebrgual Melese — Ethiopia, 25 years old, 2:23:23 pb (2015 Houston), 68:21 half
Last two marathons: 2nd 2015 Chicago (2:23:43); 1st 2015 Prague (2:23:49)
Melese broke through in a big way last year. At the start of 2015, she had never broken 2:26 in a marathon. Last year, she did it three times — and all three were well under her previous best, as she won Houston (2:23:23) and Prague (2:23:49) and took 2nd in Chicago (2:23:43). For good measure, she also trimmed 41 seconds off her half marathon pb, clocking a 68:21 in Prague in March.
Now Melese will try to build on that breakthrough and win her first big-time marathon (Houston and Prague were impressive, but Dubai is on a different level). She has run in Dubai before, but she enters this race in a far different spot than 2014, when she was making her debut and wound up 13th in 2:29:46. As we mentioned above, Melese got spanked by Daska in her last outing (losing by 54 seconds at the Great Ethiopian Run on November 22); in fact, Daska had her number last fall as she also came out ahead of Melese in the half marathon at the All-Africa Games on September 17 (though given that all three Ethiopian entrants crossed the line together well ahead of the rest of the field in that one, we’re not reading too much into it). But if you want to pick a runner who did exceptionally well in 2015, Melese may be your pick.
Best of the Rest
- Gulume Chala, Ethiopia, 24-years old, 2:23:12 pb, — Chala had run eight career marathons before 2015, none faster than 2:34. Then she ran 2:29 in March and followed it up with a 2:23 win in Frankfurt in October. Definitely somebody to keep an eye on.
- Dinknesh Mekash Tefera, 31-years old, Ethiopia, 2:23:12 pb, — Mekash experienced a similar breakthrough to Chala in Frankfurt last fall, recording an identical time of 2:23:12 (Chala was credited with first, Mekash second) for an almost two-minute pb. It was the culmination of a season that also saw her win in Mumbai (2:30) and take second in Daegu (2:29).
- Meseret Mengistu, Ethiopia, 25, years old 2:23:26 pb — 2015 Paris champ (2:23) was only 7th in Frankfurt last fall (2:28).
What do you think? Tell us in the Dubai Marathon thread on our messageboard: MB: Official 2016 Dubai Marathon Live Discussion Thread.
Men’s Preview: 2016 Dubai Marathon Men’s Preview: Former Champs Hayle Lemi Berhanu, Tsegaye Mekonnen & Ayele Abshero Take on 2:04 Men Tadese Tola & Tsegaye Kebede and a Host of Hungry Ethiopians for the Richest Prize in Marathoning