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For the past three years, he has been one of the first men across the finish line at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon and next week wheelchair athlete Rob Smith will be looking to make it four in a row at the world’s richest marathon.
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will see more than 20,000 competitors rub shoulders in the Middle East’s biggest mass participation sporting event.
For Smith, however, it will once again be a race against the clock in a category he has won for the past three years, each time setting a personal best in the process. “The Dubai course is fast and flat, which has both its advantages and disadvantages,” said Smith, who is now under the guidance of Jenni Banks, head Great Britain wheelchair racing coach and coach to double Paralympic gold medalist Hannah Cockcroft.
“The lack of hills is good as it means there are no hard uphill sections but that also means there are no downhills so there is zero chance to rest for a few seconds on the down slope.
“There are also not many racers in the category so there’s also no drafting possibilities – the chance to sit in someone else’s slip stream – as I’m usually at the front on my own the whole time. Last year was particularly hard work especially with the condensation, which meant it was extremely difficult to grab and push the wheels.”
Despite those foggy and humid conditions in 2013, Smith returned to the UK with the Wheelchair Open gold medal and a new British record of 2h:06m:45s for the T52 Wheelchair Class. This year, he has a new record in mind as well as international ambitions.
“My training is going well although it’s hard work in the UK in winter,” he added. “I feel I’m going faster and really want to get under two hours for a marathon in 2014 – Dubai is a great chance to achieve that. I’m also really hoping for some good track results in the summer and to be selected for the European Championships in Swansea in the summer.
“I did the London Marathon last year in a time of two hours 13 after suffering an illness but I did have a good race in Oita, Japan in October where I set a new personal best of 2.01:31. I’ve also done a few half marathons and lots of work on the track during last summer so I’m ready and looking forward to competing in Dubai.”
From an initial best time in Dubai of 2h:18m:48s in 2011, Smith has massively reduced his time over the streets of the emirate and will be gunning for that sub two hour time next Friday (January 24) over a route that is quick, flat and which combined some of most iconic landmarks in the city such as Union House, Madinat Jumeirah, the Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Mosque.
Supported by the Dubai Sports Council, Adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Masafi, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police, the RTA and Dubai Municipality, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is still accepting entries through the official web site www.dubaimarathon.org for the Marathon and 10km Road Race only.