DUBAI // The disappointment at the dearth of Emirati entrants in the marathon turned to delight yesterday when the first two places in the women's 10km race were taken by UAE nationals.
Belthem Belayneh Deslagn, a UAE national team runner, won the race in 33mins 05secs, and was followed in by Aliah Saeed Mohammed. Deslagn finished nearly two minutes ahead of the third-placed runner, Belainesh Gurmu of Ethiopia, which is one of distance running's most prolific countries.
On the eve of the race, Ahmed al Kamali, the president of the UAE Athletics Federation, had bemoaned the paucity of Emiratis participating in the marathon. Just over one per cent of the field were nationals - yet that was an improvement on the past, due perhaps to the offer of Dh10,000 (US$2,700) for the first Emirati home.
That prize was taken by Naser Mohammed al Marzouqi, 53, a hotel operations manager for the Jumeirah Group, who finished in 3hrs 02mins. "A prize like this provides a lot of motivation, not for me necessarily because I have always enjoyed running, but for youngsters," said al Marzouqi, who has run over 30 marathons.
"More clubs came here because of it, from as far away as Al Ain. It is good encouragement for more UAE nationals to come here and compete for it."
Rob Smith continued his preparation for the 2012 Paralympics in London by adding the Dubai title to his previous wins in London and Berlin. "The prize money [Dh10,000] is the biggest of my racing career which is a real bonus. Now I need to get more funding, get a new chair and push on to get better personal bests."
The men's 10km race was won by Ihya Bem Youssef from Morocco. The main race was won by David Barmasai of Kenya.