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Debutant teenager Addisu Gobena shocked the men's field in 2:05:01 to clinch the Dubai Marathon on Sunday. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Two years ago, teenager Addisu Gobena was busy throwing around his javelin trying to etch a career out of it. But his true calling was always running and it needed one advice from his aunt and two-time Dubai Marathon runner-up Ruti Aga for him to make the shift. “I think I made the right decision,” the 19-year-old said after making a dream start to win the win the Dubai Marathon men’s title on his debut run on Sunday. “I am very happy to win on my debut. Today is Ethiopian Christmas, so for me it is double celebrations,” said an elated Gobena, who entered the Dubai event with limited experience of having won just a third place in the New Delhi half-marathon.

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Last year, Dera Dida, wife of former Dubai Marathon winner and ex-world champion Tamirat Tola, and his brother Abdisa Tola took the Dubai Marathon titles. This year too it’s been a family affair with Gobena taking the men’s crown while his aunt Aga finishing runner-up in the women’s race behind another Ethiopian marathon debutant Tigist Ketema, who shattered the course record and ran the eighth fastest time in the history of women’s marathon at 2:16:07.

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Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, presents the Dubai Marathon winner's trophy to Addisu Gobena. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Love for running

The 19-year-old looked very comfortable on the fast-paced streets of Jumeirah and never faced any difficulties. “The race was not difficult. It was a bit windy until around 36 kilometres, but other than that the race was relatively easier even though it is my first marathon.”

Gobena’s javelin career was near average with his best throw being 5.2 metres. “Even though I was a javelin thrower, I always loved running. So I started training for 400 and 800-metre races.”

But from 800 metres to marathon, the difference in class is a huge. The youngster went on to narrate how he transitioned himself into a marathon champion. “I started training in Addis Ababa with my aunt, who wanted me to add marathon to my schedule. Initially, it was very difficult. So I started training with the women runners, who used to leave me way behind,” he recollected. “I worked hard and finished 11th in my first half-marathon in Ethiopia. The coach saw the potential in me and moved me into the men’s section for B level runners, not with elite, A level athletes. I continued my training and now I am Dubai marathon winner,” he said proudly.

Place in Ethiopian national team

Gobena is planning to run another marathon in April to stake his claim for a place in the Ethiopian national team for the Paris Olympic Games.

“I want to represent my country and race with the best,” said Gobena, who idolises greats like Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba. “They are so humble and hard-working. So I used to look up to them and want to achieve a lot like them,” he concluded.

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Ethiopian fans supporting their team during the 23rd Dubai Marathon on Sunday. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News