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The streets of Dubai will be the focus of world distance running tomorrow morning (Friday) when 20,000 runners take part in the 2013 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
From race favourites Yemane Tsegay and Tirfi Tsegaye in the men and women’s marathon to the families taking part in the 3km Fun Run, the emirate is hosting a wide variety of runners with various degrees of talent but all sharing the same amount of determination.
Yemane is keen to make amends for his poor showing last year when, despite running a time of 2.06.27, which would have been a world record little more than a decade ago, he could only finish tenth in Dubai. He quickly made up for that by winning the Rotterdam Marathon three months later in a personal best 2.04.48, beating Moses Mosop of Kenya into the bargain.
The two were due to renew their rivalry today but Mosop has had to stay in Kenya to deal with family problems. Yemane, fourth in the 2008 Olympic race, was non-plussed at suggestions the Kenyan’s presence would have made any great difference.
“It’s not really the opponents in the marathon, it’s the marathon itself, the distance that’s the problem,” he said. “I ran well here last year, but so did everyone else. I put that right in Rotterdam, and ran fast (11th all-time). But I think this is a faster course, and I’m in better shape”.
Away from the big guns Chris Khouri will be one to watch in the Open Wheelchair category, while former England footballer Trevor Sinclair will be aiming to beat his marathon best in the men’s event.
The pair came together on the eve of the event with Sinclair admitting to being “massively impressed” by Khouri’s strength and ambition – personal traits that could well see the 40 year-old Dutchman take first place in his fourth marathon in the emirate.
“All the power comes from the arms and the shoulders so after a while you do tire a bit but it’s exhilarating to be able to go through the streets and roads of Dubai in a hand-cycle with the city free of cars – it’s a beautiful experience,” said Khouri, who lost the use of his legs following a motocross accident in the desert in 2009.
“I kind of accepted my disability and while I am not saying it isn’t painful and it isn’t hard work, having positive people around you, being positive yourself and having something to aim for does help.”
In the men’s marathon, Sinclair will be aiming to beat his previous Dubai best of 3h:38m, which he set last year, and hoping to beat his 2012 London Marathon time of 3h:33m. The former QPR, West Ham and Manchester City star scored one of the greatest goals in English football history on January 25, 1997 and he will be looking to celebrate the anniversary with another personal milestone in the 42.195km race.
“It’s the best goal I have ever scored and I get reminded of it all the time,” smiled Sinclair after wishing Khouri good luck. “But I enjoy running these days – it was all new to me last year but everything went to plan and it was a big achievement. I do it for charity and running the Dubai Marathon benefits the charity and inspires me at the same time.”
The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon 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. Live online coverage of the event will start at 6am through the official website at www.dubaimarathon.org.
In addition to Standard Chartered as title sponsor, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, Adidas, 103.8FM, JW Marriott Marquis, Emaar, Sport 360, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police and the RTA.