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With the 2012 Olympics just months away, the cream of world distance running has gathered in the UAE hoping for victory in the 2012 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday (January 27).
Such is the quality of the field, last year’s men’s champion David Barmasai returns to defend his crown against thirteen men who have all run quicker than the 2011 winner’s personal best at the classic 42.195km distance.
Among them is Martin Lel, the flying Kenyan who is back in top form after a spell on the sidelines through injury. The 33 year-old – last year’s runner-up in the London Marathon – has five marathon major titles to his name thanks to a record-equalling hat-trick of victories in London (2005, 2007 and 2008) and a brace in New York (2003 and 2007).
With a personal best of 2:05:15, Lel has the credentials to win on his debut in the world’s richest marathon this week but he won’t have it all his own way in a race that offers both the men and women’s champion a cheque for $250,000 and is held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council.
A dozen other men have bettered Barmasai’s 2011 mark of 2:07:18, including Ethiopian’s Bazu Worku (2:05:25), former World Youth Champion Markos Geneti (2:06:35) and 2009 Boston Marathon champion Deriba Merga (2:06:38).
Not to be outdone, great rivals Kenya also have title ambitions in the shape of Lel, Gilbert Yegon (2:06:18) and Elijah Keitany (2:06:41).
“The men’s field is incredibly strong with twelve runners who have all run below 2:07:00,” said Event Director Peter Connerton. “We are delighted to have a five time Major winner in Martin Lel with us this year but he is just one of many men who can win the event and the women’s field is very similar with some incredible talent in the line-up.”
In the women’s field, last year’s champion Asselefech Medessa will be looking to defend her crown but, like Barmasai in the men’s division, she does not have the top personal best.
Although Medessa won in 2:22:45 last year, her personal best is just seven seconds quicker making her the fourth fastest in the field behind 2010 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon champion Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia who set a best of 2:21:59 in Frankfurt last year, Ethiopian Atsede Baysa (2:22:04) and Kenya’s Lydia Cheromei who set a course record 2:22:34 when winning in Prague last year.
“The elite fields are very strong and we are all set for two wonderful races in our new setting in Downtown Dubai,” said IAAF Council Member Ahmed Al Kamali, President of the UAE Athletic Federation and General Coordinator of the event. “In total there will be over 15,000 competitors spread across the marathon, the 10km and the 3km Fun Run so there will be a carnival atmosphere when we start the races opposite Dubai’s iconic Burj Khalifa on Friday morning.”
All three races will start and finish outside The Pavilion, Downtown Dubai with the marathon runners getting underway at 7am. The 10km field will hear the start gun at 7.15am, while the Fun Run is scheduled for a 10.30am start.
“This is our eighth consecutive year as title sponsor and we are delighted to play a part in promoting health and fitness in the UAE,” said Jonathan Morris, CEO of the UAE at Standard Chartered Bank. This world class event gives us an opportunity to maintain our active role in the community as part of our commitment to be ‘here for good’.”
“This is one of the key highlights of the sporting and social calendar in the region. We are excited to host some of the world’s best elite runners who will undoubtedly strengthen the UAE’s position on the international marathon circuit and help drive the development of sport in the region,” he added.
Ahmad Al Matrooshi, Managing Director, Emaar Properties, said: “Emaar is truly honoured to extend its support and host the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon 2012, in its flagship development Downtown Dubai, described as ‘The Centre of Now.’ Aimed at bringing the community together through the ultimate lifestyle events, the Dubai Marathon once again reiterates Downtown Dubai’s premier position as the must-visit destination.”
As well as the sporting side of the $1 million event, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will also feature a Marathon Village on the Burj Park with food and beverage stands, sponsor tents and entertainment throughout the day. Entrance to the village and to watch the event is free of charge.
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.