DUBAI // Ayele Abshero Biza, running a marathon for the first time, clipped the legendary Haile Gebrselassie’s Dubai Marathon course record in winning the men’s title, while defending champion Aselefech Mergia Medessa did the same in a blistering finish among the women.
Abshero was 30 seconds quicker than Gebrselassie’s time in 2008, taking the tape in two hours, four minutes and 23 seconds, while Medessa crossed the line in 2:19:31, which improves on the previous course record of 2:22:42 set by Berhane Adere in 2008.
Medessa are also set a new Ethiopian mark at a race dominated by her compatriots, with five of them on the podium. It was a 1-2-3 for them in the men’s, but Lucy Wangui Kabuu of Kenya managed to break their monopoly with a second among the women.
“This is a result of all the hard work I have put in over the past four months,” said Abshero, 22, who finished 27 seconds ahead of Dino Sefir Kemal, while Markos Geneti Guteta was a further four second behind.
“I had prepared really well, so even though this is my first marathon, I was very confident of a good performance. Winning here will give me a lot of confidence going forward and it will be a big motivation.
“I am very happy that I could improve on the record of a legend like Haile, especially since I am running here for the first time. It’s unbelievable for me. Now I hope I can go the Olympics with this time.”
“This is a special day for me,” Medessa said. “The biggest thing is to break the Ethiopia record and I am very happy about that. Also, with my time here, I believe I have a good chance of going to the Olympics. I came here with that goal in mind.
“I am really happy to emerge the winner from such a strong field. If you want to know how good you are, you have to compete against the best.”
Abshero was in the leading pack virtually from the starting gun. Around the 38 kilometre mark, that group had trickled down to five but Abshero’s late burst left them far behind.
“There were many runners in the group and I knew it was going to be a very tough, tactical race,” said Abshero, who run many half-marathons before and was the gold medal winner at the 2009 World Cross Country Championships. “Around the 40km, I started to push and the other guys started dropping back. At that moment, I knew I was going to win the race.”
Medessa had a tougher time in the women’s competition, where the top seven finished with a better time than the previous course record.
“The last few kilometres were very tough because of the competition between us, but around 41km I started pushing hard and increased the gap on Lucy,” said Medessa, who finished three seconds ahead of Kabuu, while Mare Dibaba Hurssa came in third in 2:19:52.
Both the champions take home a cheque of $250,000 and while Abshero still does not know what he will do with it, Medessa is hoping to use the money to create some jobs for the poor in Ethiopia.
“When I was coming here, I didn’t know I was going to win the race,” Abshero said. “Now I have won $250,000 and I am really thrilled, but I don’t know how I am going to spend it. I am going to go home and think about what to do with the money for a few nights.”
Medessa said: “I will invest the money in Ethiopia to help create jobs for the poor people and help them like that.”