Dubai: Ethiopian runners stole the show in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon by recording a clean sweep, capturing the first six places in the men’s race and claimed the first five in the women’s race.
Starting the race in near darkness at 6.30am from Umm Suqeim Road, the runners lit up the streets through an electrifying display of speed and stamina. Tesfaye Abera Dibaba of Ethiopia emerged as the new winner of the Dubai Marathon with a personal best timing of 2:04:24 in the men’s race followed by last year’s winner Lemi Berhanu Hayle nine seconds later at 02:04:33. Tsegaye Mekonnen Asefa, the 2014 Dubai Marathon winner finished third at 2:04:46. Abera’s timing was just one second outside the course record.
In the women’s race, Tirfi Tsegaye Beyene produced a sterling performance to win in 2:19:41 followed by Amane Beriso Shankule with a timing of 2:20:48. Meselech Melkamu Haileyesus finished third at 02:22:29.
Such was the dominance of the Ethiopians that in the men’s race, that Sisay Lemma Kasaye took fourth place at 2:05:16 while Mula Wasihun Lakew clinched fifth at 02:05:44. Even the sixth place finish was by an Ethiopian - Abayneh Ayele Woldegiorgis at 2:06:45. The best by a Kenyan was Samuel Kiplimo Kosgei, who finished seventh, at 2:06:53.
It was the same story in the women’s race too, with the fourth place being taken by Ethiopia’s Sutume Asefa Kebede with a time of 2:24:00 and fifth by her compatriot Mulu Seboka Seyfu at 2:24:24. Bahrain’s Eshete Habtegebrel Shitaye, who too is Ethiopia-born, was the best among other women runners at sixth with a time of 2:25:36.
Abera and Tsegaye pocketed the prize money of $200,000 (Dh734,000) each. When Gulf News asked what they plan to do with the sum, Abera said: “This is big money for me. I don’t have a house of my own so now I will try and build a house.” Tsegaye, who was the Dubai Marathon winner in 2013, remarked: “When I won in 2013 with the prize money I bought a house. This time I was not expecting to win the race and I am so happy that I don’t know what to do with the money.”
Abera, who shattered his previous personal best of 2:09:46 in the Mumbai marathon by more than five minutes, was also not expecting to win. “My aim was just to beat my personal best. To get so close to the course record is a great feeling,” said Abera, who could have done it but for fatigue. “The last two kilometers was very competitive as the other guys were catching up. (The) last 400m I passed the others and during the last 200m I felt very tired and out of energy and hence I slowed down,” revealed Abera.
Tsegaye too felt she could have even finished with a better timing but for a communication gap with the pace maker. “My pace maker was very good but towards the end he moved away. Unfortunately we hadn’t discussed coming to the finish and so finished a bit slow.” Yet, Tsegaye won by more than a minute in a time ahead of debut girl Beriso.
Thousands of Ethiopians turned up to cheer for their runners, many waving flags. Abera said of the fans: “Thank you for the fantastic crowd. I will come back again.” Tsegaye, who blew kisses to the spectators, said: “Dubai is like a second home to me now. I love running here. Ethiopian fans are special here and thank you for once again for cheering me to victory.”
1. Tesfaye Abera (ETH) 2:04:24
2. Lemi Berhanu (ETH) 2:04:3
3. Tsegaye Mekonnen (ETH) (2:04:46).
1. Tirfi Tsegaye (ETH) 2:19:41
2. Amane Beriso (ETH) 2:20:48
3. Meselech Melkamu (ETH) 2:22:29
1. Samir Jouaher (MAR) 28m:41s
2. Ashenafi Weldegiorgis (ETH) 29m:31s.
3. Ihya Ben Youssef (MOR) 29m:55s.
1. Anne Mari Hyrylainen (FIN) 34m:42s.
2. Paris Arab (IRI) 37m: 03s
3. Gerda Steyn (RSA) 37m: 43s.