Image Credit: Atiq- Ur- Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: A new route and record number of runners will greet the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, one of the biggest social events in Dubai’s sporting calendar, on Friday.

Some of the world’s finest long distance runners have arrived to compete alongside the amateur athletes in the race, set to get underway from under the shadows of Burj Al Arab from 7am, while the 10km road race will begin from 7.15am. The 3km Fun Run, in which families run as a group, will commence at 11am from the same area.

The number of participants have swelled every year and is expected to break last year’s record of 19,837 runners from 145 different nationalities.

Though 2013 men’s champion Lelisa Desisa and women’s winner Tirfi Tsegaye from Ethiopia haven’t returned to defend their titles, the race is likely to be breathtaking with the new route being a flat and fast course.

Last year, five men broke the two hours and five minutes mark to set a new record in the history of the marathon as never have so many athletes finished a marathon under the 2:05 mark.

Standard Chartered Bank, supporting the marathon for the 10th year in succession, is delighted with the increasing popularity of the Dubai Marathon around the world.

“We are happy that Dubai Marathon is today the fourth fastest men’s course behind only Berlin, Frankfurt and Chicago, while in the women’s event it is the fifth fastest women’s course behind London, Berlin, Chicago and Rotterdam,” said Jonathan Morris, CEO of UAE Standard Chartered Bank.

The other supporters of the marathon are Dubai Sports Council, Adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Masafi, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police, the RTA and Dubai Municipality.

Kenyan runners will be aiming to prevent a hat-trick of Ethiopian successes in the Dubai Marathon as Kenyans have been impressive in major city marathons recently. Jonathan Maiyo will spearhead Kenya’s hopes after having smashed his personal best in 2012 by almost eight minutes, improving from 2:12:45 to 2:04:56. This year, the 25 year-old finished 10th in Tokyo in 2:10:18 and is determined to give his best here.

Kenyans’ strongest opponents from Ethiopia will be Markos Geneti, who edged out Maiyo for third in Dubai in 2012. The Ethiopian finished two seconds ahead with a personal best of 2:04:54.

In the women’s race, Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Hailu will head a strong women’s elite field. With nine runners owning personal bests of sub 2:24 the race will be intense.