The 20th edition of the Dubai Marathon is another spectacle of East African marathon supremacy.
The elite race starts at 6am local time. The sky is still dark, but the bright streetlights and little wind mean conditions are ideal. The marathon is held on relatively new roads, with flat, smooth tarmac.
The men’s race has three Kenyan pacemakers who are quickly followed by eleven men vying for the title. Bunched in with a couple of male pacemakers three elite women make an early breakaway.
As it approaches 7am daylight breaks suddenly and the races hot up.
Inexperience isn’t a disadvantage
In the world of elite marathoners the best are becoming younger and faster. Getaneh Molla’s debut men’s marathon results in an astonishing victory. Not only is the Ethiopian 25 years old, his time of 2:03:34 is a new course record and the fastest debutant marathon in history.
Most impressive is his measured approach throughout. He remains composed as his steady pace and concentration on the road ahead allow him to ignore his competitors’ tactics. It is an almost flawless performance, making his deciding move with less than a kilometre left. His win even surprises him.
There’s always more to improve
Ruth Chepngetich’s metronomic stride, strong arm drive and determined look prove superior over her steely opponent Worknesh Degefa. Chepngetich keeps a fast tempo but the water stations reveal her weakness.
At almost every 5km interval the Kenyan either misses or fumbles with her bottles. She inevitably loses momentum and time unnecessarily. Although she quickly makes up the distance, and powers to the finish line, her concentration is too intense.
An improved self-awareness will surely make her a genuine contender to Mary Keitany’s current dominance in women’s distance running.
The prize money of $100,000 for each winner is undoubtedly an incentive for the athletes but there are also significant pressures to beat the course record and even target the world record.
This race has the atmosphere and appearance of a major event, and will no doubt rival the World Marathon Majors in the future as a showcase of the very best long-distance runners the world has to offer.