Dubai: Lelisa Desisa’s victory in the Dubai Marathon men’s event represented a belated birthday present.
In what was his first ever marathon, just 11 days after his 23rd birthday, Desisa won the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon in 2:04:45 to pocket the $200,000 (Dh734,550) winner’s prize money.
When asked by Gulf News about what he planned do with the huge prize, a shy Desisa said: “I will now think of building my own house and also plan to get married.”
For Desisa it was a surprise win here.
“I ran intelligently, refusing to push myself and waited until the last lap. Being a half-marathon runner, I knew that if I could keep up with the pack until the end, I could sprint past the other runners, and I did exactly that in the last 200 metres.”
Desisa fell in love with running from his school days.
“I was better than all my schoolmates and won at all the athletics meets. So I took part in zone and regional races and came first. I ran my first race outside my country in Mauritius and won it,” said Desisa, who has recorded four sub-60 minute runs in half-marathons. In November 2011, he recorded his best half-marathon time of 59:30 in New Delhi.
“I will continue running half-marathons, but maybe reduce the amount, and will compete in at least two to three marathons every year now. I will discuss this matter with my coach and take a final decision,” said Desisa, who got his first international gold medal when he won the 2009 African Junior Athletics championship 10,000 metres title.
Tirfi Tsegaye, who won the women’s race in 2:23:23, said she owes her victory here to advice from last year’s Dubai Marathon course record-holder and friend Aselefech Mergia.
Tsegaye and Mergia train together but Mergia could not compete this time due to injury.
“Mergia had told me to push in the first half and the last half and, if I found the weather humid, not to push too hard. I followed her advice when I knew it was getting hotter and maintained the pace and pushed towards the end,” said Tsegaye, who last April won the Paris Marathon.
Tsegaye hails from Ethiopia’s Oromia region and comes from a town renowned for producing world-class runners such as Kenenisa Bekeel and Tirunesh Dibaba.
“Frankly I had never thought of winning the Dubai Marathon, so I don’t know what I will do with the huge prize money. I will start dreaming from today,” said Tsegaye.