Dubai. The news that three-time Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele will take to the streets of Dubai this week has resulted in a spike in the number of last-minute entries looking to compete in the 2017 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday (January 20).

The Ethiopian legend will lead the Marathon field in the Middle East’s biggest mass participation event in what will be only his second appearance on the Dubai roads — a surface he will share with more than 30,000 “running mates”.

And while last-minute entries are the norm in Dubai, organisers are delighted to see Bekele’s inclusion has been eagerly welcomed by the thousands of local and international runners who will run alongside the Ethiopian great in both the Marathon and the 10km Road Race. Thousands more will also enjoy the family-oriented 4km Fun Run.

“It’s not often that athletes get to share the stage with one of the greatest sportsmen of all time,” said Event Director Peter Connerton. “There are few long distance runners with a pedigree like Kenenisa so it’s quite an honour to say you’ve competed on the same track beside the best in the business.”

For those who have put in the long and often lonely hours in preparing for the big day, the countdown is now on the last lap with runners currently receiving their final race instructions and confirmations before collecting their prized run numbers.

Run number collection will be from the Turf Suite on the fourth floor at Meydan — a venue well used to racing thoroughbreds — with collections on Monday, January 16 (10am-9pm), Tuesday/Wednesday, January 17/18 (10am-7pm) and on Thursday, January 19 (10am-5pm). No number collection will be possible on race day.

Staged under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and held under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the 2017 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is the first world-class marathon of the year and has attracted a strong field of international elites including former World and Olympic champion Bekele and the 2014 Dubai winner Tsegaye Mekonnen.

As well as the men and women at the sharp end of the sport, amateur runners of all abilities will tackle a race route that mirrors the 2016 Marathon taking the field from the start line on Umm Suqeim Road just along from the Dubai Police Academy and along the Jumeirah Beach Road before crossing the Dubai Water Canal for the very first time.

Once the route reaches the famous UAE flag at Union House, the field will turn for him and race back up the Jumeirah Beach Road, past the iconic Burj Al Arab and finish back on Umm Suqeim Road.

Runners in the 10km race will exit Umm Suqeim Road turning left on to Al Sufouh and carry on past the Dubai College Junction before doing a U-turn prior to the exit to Palm Island. Heading back up Al Sufouh, the runners will pass the entrance to Al Qasr before turning right at the Madinat Junction and running in the direction of the finish line.

Athletes still looking to compete in the Marathon, the 10km Road Race or the 4km Fun Run can still register online through the official event website