The 2016 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will be boosted by the return of Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero to the scene of his greatest triumph.

By Ali Khaled |

The 2016 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday is set to be the city’s biggest yet with as many as 30,000 runners expected to take part in the first high-profile race of this, Olympic year, season.

The biggest mass participation sporting event in the Middle East will see the 42-kilometre marathon start at 6.30am, while the 10km road race will start at 9am. The 4km fun run will start at 11am.

While the marathon and 10km road race will start on Umm Suqeim Road opposite Madinat Jumeirah in the shadow of Burj Al Arab, the 4km fun run will start on Al Wasl Road. All distances will finish on Umm Suqeim road before the Dubai Police Academy and Al Wasl Road junction.

The men’s field has been boosted by the return of Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero to the scene of his greatest triumph, where as a 21-year-old marathon rookie, he overcame an experienced field by clocking a stunning time of 2 hours, 4 minutes, 23 seconds to win the 2012 Dubai Marathon on his debut.

It marked a course record for the IAAF Gold Label race, the fastest marathon debut ever and, at the time, the fourth fastest marathon time in history.

“Ayele Abshero’s victory and course record was a highlight in what was an amazing year for the Dubai Marathon in 2012,” event director Peter Connerton said.

Ethiopia's Ayele Abshero waves his national flag after winning the men's Dubai Marathon in the Gulf emirate on January 27, 2012 (PHOTO: AFP / STR / AFP / STR)

Ayele Abshero waves his national flag after winning the men’s Dubai Marathon 2012 (PHOTO: AFP)

“Never before in marathon history had more than three men broken 2:05 on a legal course yet that year four men broke that mark here in Dubai. We bettered that in 2013 when five men ran sub-2:05 but Ayele Abshero’s race, and the fastest marathon debut ever, are certainly among the race’s historical highlights.”

Ayele Abshero will be up against a strong line up with two-time London Marathon winner Tsegaye Kebede taking part in Dubai for the first time.

Tsegaye Kebede, who won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and another at the World Championships in Berlin a year later, will be hoping for another win to confirm himself as one of the planet’s fastest long-distance runners.

In the ladies’ event, Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu, runner up in 2014, will be hoping to go one better this year. Two years ago Meselech Melkamu missed out on victory by just 22 seconds to fellow Ethiopian Mulu Seboka and the two will again be among the favorites to win the 2016 edition.

Last year, Mulu Seboka finished fifth in Dubai, recording a new best time of 2:21:56.

“Dubai is a very special marathon for me as I was champion in 2014 and I ran my personal best there in 2015,” said Mulu Seboka, who finished fifth in her first World Marathon Major appearance in Chicago in 2015.

“I want to come back to run even faster and my whole focus since Chicago has been my return to Dubai.”

With a marathon personal best of 2:21:01, set in Frankfurt in 2012, Meselech Melkamu is the second fastest in Friday’s line-up, but her and third-ranked Mulu Seboka, will have to contend with fastest athlete in the field, 2013 Dubai champion Tirfi Tsegaye (2:20:18).

The 2010 winner, Ethiopian Mamitu Daska, is also among those returning to Dubai, meaning three former winners will take part in one of the strongest field this race has ever seen.

Source: The National
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