Former champions Lemi Berhanu and Worknesh Degefa will be among the powerful elite line-up when the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon celebrates its 20th edition on the streets of the UAE on January 25.
The two Ethiopians – winners in 2015 and 2017 respectively – are key figures in the roll of honour of the Middle East’s biggest mass participation event, the only IAAF Gold Label Marathon in the region.
Lemi has performed well on the global stage but his best performances have always been on the flat and fast streets of Dubai. As well as winning the title four years ago in a time of 2h:05m:28s, he set his personal best at the event when as defending champion he finished runner-up in 2016 in 2h:04:33.
Still only 25, Lemi has also competed at World Championship level and at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Like an increasing number of elite runners, he has also prospered at the marathon distance in China, winning the Hengshui title with 2h:08m:51s in September 2018, the Xiamen Marathon in 2017 (2h:08m:27s) and the 2014 Taiyuan Marathon (2h:13m:10s).
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the 2019 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will welcome a number of the world’s best athletes as the marathon celebrates its 20th anniversary with elite fields in both the men and women’s races.
Among the leading elite women in the line-up, Worknesh Degefa who stunned the athletics world in 2017 by winning on her marathon debut in Dubai. The Ethiopian caused quite an upset beating a strong field of experienced marathon runners in a time of 2h:22m:36s although she was disappointed 12 months later.
Running in the defence of her crown Worknesh set a new personal best 2h:19m:53s yet failed to break into the top three as the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon once again proved its strength in depth with four women breaking the 2h:20m – the first time the feat has ever been achieved in one race.
“It’s very unusual that a runner will break the 2:20 mark and not win a marathon,” said Event Director Peter Connerton. “But that just shows how deep the quality runs in our elite fields. Last year we had seven men break 2h:05m – a unique result in marathon history – so the athletes competing in Dubai know they have to be at their very best to get among the medals.”
The elite marathon athletes will get their race underway at 6am on January 25, five minutes after the wheelchair athletes take to the course. The mass marathon field will face the starting gun at 7am with the 10km Road Race beginning at 8.30am and the 4km Fun Run at 10.30am. Runners looking to register can still do so by visiting the official website www.dubaimarathon.org.
In addition to Standard Chartered as title sponsor, the Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Aquafina and Gatorade, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality and the RTA.