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Three time London Marathon winner and twice a winner over the classic distance in New York, Kenyan running great Martin Lel will make his Middle East debut when he joins the field for the 2012 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on January 27.
Still only 33, Lel remains a modern day running legend having won in London in 2005, 2007 and 2008, while in 2003 and 2007 he also triumphed in the New York City Marathon.
Now fit after a spell of injury, the Kenyan will be one of the firm favourites to win the $250,000 first prize when the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon gets underway from Downtown Dubai next month.
“We have been after Martin for a long time now so we are delighted he has agreed to run in Dubai for the first time in January,” said event director Peter Connerton.
“Last month, we flew to Kenya to meet Martin and see him train in the Kenyan Rift Valley town of Eldoret and he looked in superb shape. He obviously knows a lot about Dubai and the marathon and firmly believes he can bounce back with another fast time just as he did earlier this year in London.”
With a marathon personal best of 2h:05m:15s set in London in 2008, Lel is no stranger to fast times over the 42km distance and he showed he has lost none of his class when, after almost three years without running a marathon, he finished second in the 2011 London Marathon with a time of 2h:05m:44s.
Lel ran his first marathons in 2002 and although he failed to finish at the Prague Marathon he went on to claim second in the Venice Marathon. He won the Lisbon Half Marathon in 2003, 2006 and 2009, was the gold medalist at the 2003 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, and won the Portugal Half Marathon in 2005.
Lel made his Olympic debut for Kenya at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he came fifth in the marathon, while he has also tasted victory in the Great North Run in Newcastle, England in 2007 and 2009.
“Like Haile Gebrselassie who has competed in Dubai on three occasions, Martin Lel is one of African sport’s greatest athletes and I am sure he will have the support of the Kenyan community on January 27,” said Ahmed Al Kamali, Event General Co-ordinator, IAAF Council Member and President of the UAE Athletics Federation.
To be staged under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, and under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will see around 15,000 runners take to the streets of Dubai from a new starting point outside The Pavilion Downtown Dubai opposite the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
As well as Lel, fellow Kenyan David Barmasai – the first Kenyan athlete to win the men’s race since 2007 – will return to defend his men’s title as the event finalises an elite field that will have a fast time and Olympic qualification as targets.
Now recognised with Gold Label status from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is supported by The Dubai Sports Council, Dubai Holding, “Official Outfitter” adidas, Emaar, Dubai Eye 103.8 FM, Sport 360, TNT, Fitness First, Plan B and by government departments Dubai Police, RTA, Dubai Municipality DHA and the Dubai Ambulance Services.
Runners looking to compete in the Marathon, the 10km or the 3km Fun Run can register on this website.