Dubai: Defending champions Tamirat Tola and Worknesh Degefa will lead a world class field of distance runners when the 2018 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon gets under way on January 26.
Tola, who set a new course record 2:04:11sec for the world’s ‘richest’ marathon in January 2017 and fellow Ethiopian Degefa have confirmed they will join more than 30,000 other runners in the Middle East’s biggest mass participation sporting event in what is a major boost to the organisers.
For Tola — whose win in Dubai is the 10th fastest Marathon time in history — a return to the UAE has always been a high priority. The 2016 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist took more than two minutes off his previous best when winning in Dubai and is convinced he could easily have broken the 2:04 mark on the flat and fast roads of the city.
“It’s a great compliment to Dubai that Tamirat has decided to run in January and not compete in the London Marathon in April,” said Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon Race Director Peter Connerton. “He is a wonderful young talent and at 26 has many great years ahead of him, which is why so many race directors would like him in their line-up. The fact he believes he can attack our course again in January and secure yet another personal best can only be good for the event.”
Held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the Marathon will be staged in conjunction with a 10km Road Race and a 4km Fun Run.
For Degefa, it will be a welcome return to the scene of her greatest victory — in 2017 she also stormed to first place and the $200,000 prize money with what was a winning marathon debut of 2h:22m:36s, the fourth fastest time in the event’s history. The diminutive 27 year-old had already shown she was a superlative half-marathon runner over a four-year period prior to stepping up to the longer distance finishing 17 times in under 70 minutes.
Her Dubai success has only strengthened her reputation and she will start as a hot favourite to make it two in a row in the Emirates.
“We will be able to confirm more elite athletes field over the coming two weeks but it is safe to say we are delighted to welcome back the two runners who won both the men and women’s events in 2017,” added Connerton. “We will also be finalising the Marathon route with one or two changes to the course for 2018.”
In addition to Standard Chartered as title sponsor, the Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Masafi Natural Water, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police and the RTA.