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Dubai (UAE): She may have lost her ladies’ marathon title to Berhane Adere in 2008 but former course record holder Askale Tafa Magarsa will be looking to regain her crown when she lines up again at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on January 16.
Two years ago, the diminutive Ethiopian – known simply as “Askale” – destroyed a quality field to break the old course record by more than six minutes. She returned to defend twelve months ago but was forced to settle for third place with a time of 2h:23m:23s despite breaking her own winning time of 2007 on a day when Adere was simply too good.
Since then, however, the little girl with the beaming smile has set a new personal best of 2h:21m:31s in Berlin, more than a minute inside Adere’s Dubai course record and race officials firmly believe the 24-year-old is set to shine yet again in the US$2 million Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
“Askale is simply getting better and better,” said Event Director Peter Connerton. “She keeps setting new personal bests and seems to love the conditions here in Dubai in January. She was brilliant here two years ago when she broke the course record and won by more than eight minutes so there’s no doubt she’ll be a favourite to run away with the US$250,000 first prize.”
A precocious talent topped off with an ear-to-ear grin, Askale will be making her third appearance in an event staged under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
“I started running when I was sixteen years old and I found I could do it with no problem,” she said. “I ran the 10,000m but after a while I wanted to test myself, so I tried the Rome Marathon – it was not good, but not bad and I finished third in 2:32.”
Since then, she has shaved a massive eleven minutes off her personal best and has been training hard for the world’s richest marathon with a regime in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa that will astound the budding amateurs who will compete alongside her on January 16.
“I do a lot of hard training to build up for races, so they are not so bad on my body,” she added. “You find if you add the miles then the race isn’t tough. I have many runs at 40km in training so a race feels like training to me. For a marathon, I’ll do three months of training – runs of 40k, 30k, 35k. I do lots of jogging in the forest then I do two bouts of speed work during the week.
“One time will be a tempo on the roads to prepare the legs for the marathon then the second time of the week will be on the track. For example, before the Boston Marathon, I did twenty runs of 1,000m with two minute jog recovery at an average of 3m:09s.”
As well as title sponsors Standard Chartered, other supporters of the event include Dubai Holding, The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, Puma, Arab Media Group (AMG), TNT and Fitness First with assistance provided by Dubai Sports Council, RTA, Dubai Municipality and Dubai Police.
IMAGE: Askale – the lady with the winning smile will return to try and regain her title at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on January 16