Dubai: The winners of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon were roared on by a large number of cheering Ethiopian fans on the roads of the city this morning.
The 21st edition of the event once again lived up to its reputation of throwing up surprises with yet another debutant — Ethiopia’s Olika Adugna Bikila — stunning the elite runners to emerge as the new men’s champion with a time of 2 hours, 6 minutes and 15 seconds.
Bikila became the fifth man in the last nine years to win the Dubai title on his debut. Through a brilliant last push after the 40km mark, to move ahead from a tightly bunched group of 11 men, Bikila pocketed the $100,000 (Dh367,000) prize money. So intense was the race for the title that the first 11 runners finished within one minute of each other. Ethiopia’s Beshah Yerssie Eskezia, who finished 11th with a time of 2:06.34, became the fastest 11th-place finisher in the history of any marathon. The first four runners crossed the line were separated by just three seconds.
Bikila edged Kenya’s Eric Kiptanui, who finished just three seconds behind Bikila, while Ethiopia’s Tsedat Abeje Ayana ended up third with just one second slower. Except for Kenya’s Kipatanui all the first 11 finishers were Ethiopians. The warm temperature of around 20 Celsius and breezy conditions had resulted in runners unable to gain the pace they desired.
The women’s race was a dramatic one with Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa, who finished second last year, emerging as the winner by clocking 2:19.37 and overcoming back pain.
It was Degefa’s second triumph here as she had won in the 2017 edition, and despite her hindrance bettered her time by three minutes. Her triumph was a crowning glory as she finished second in the 2019 edition, but came in to this year’s event on a high, having won the Boston Marathon. On arrival in Dubai for this race, Degefa had announced that she had prepared hard to win the run this year. Her determination to win the title made her push hard and lead from start to finish to become richer by $100,000. She finished ahead of her compatriot Guteni Shone Amana, who came home with a time of 2:20.11. Bedatu Hirpa Badane, also from Ethiopia, clinched the third place with a timing of 2:21:55. All the first 10 finishers made it a clean sweep by the Ethiopian women.
Speaking to Gulf News on the domination of Ethiopians, Paula Radcliffe, who held the women’s marathon world record for 16 years until last year, and was here as a commentator, said: “Ethiopians have a huge history of winning here and the expectation that if you are racing well as well as training well then they believe that they should come to Dubai and run. The travel from Ethiopia to here is also easy. Dubai, for them, is a place they feel they can come to make a name for themselves.”
In the wheelchair division, Switzerland’s Marcel Hug and Sandra Graf claimed the victories. Hug beat Zhang Yong of China to win by just one second, while Graf won by almost two minutes over Brazil’s Vanessa De Souza.
1 Adugna Bikila Olika (ETH) 02:06:15
2 Kiprono Kiptanui Eric (KEN) 02:06:17
3 Abeje Ayana Tsedat (ETH) 02:06:18
4 Tesfaye Anbessa Lencho (ETH) 02:06:18
5 Atnafu Zerihun Yitayal (ETH) 02:06:21
1 Degefa Debele Worknesh (ETH) 02:19:38
2 Shone Amana Guteni (ETH) 02:20:11
3 Hirpa Badane Bedatu (ETH) 02:21:55
4 Abayechew Jabore Tigist (ETH) 02:22:45
5 Dida Yami Dera (ETH) 02:22:52