DUBAI // David Barmasai will wake up this morning US$250,000 (Dh918,000) better off, which might persuade him to travel abroad more often.
The 23-year-old runner had never competed outside of his native Kenya before yesterday, but he can now bank the biggest winner’s cheque in distance running after winning the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
With three wins from three career races, he apparently has the marathon world at his feet. However, he has only one foreign destination definitely on his schedule: Dubai, in 12 months time.
“I’ll be back next year,” he said, after breaking the tape in a time of 2hrs 07mins 18secs.
Barmasai is unlikely to lavish his new wealth on anything extravagant. He has a young family to look after and he insisted he will invest his money wisely.
“Winning such huge prize money mens I can settle my future now. I can plan ahead, but I am sure I will use it positively,” said Barmasai, who is from Eldoret, the same area as distance running greats like Kipchoge Keino and Moses Kiptanui.
Before the race, Kenyan supporters believed they might see one of their runners on the winner’s podium for the first time since William Rotich won in 2007. Ethiopia have dominated in Dubai in recent years, thanks to three victories by Haile Gebrselassie.
It was Eliud Kiptanui, one of the rising stars of distance running, who had to shoulder the burden of Kenyan hopes, rather than Barmasai.
Big things are expected of Kiptanui after he ran the 17th fastest marathon time in history last year, as he won in Prague one month before his 21st birthday.
However, Kiptanui pulled out after 31km, leaving the road open for Barmasai, who said he had exceeded his own expectations. “I was just hoping to make it into the top 10 as I didn’t know what time I could run because I didn’t know the conditions,” said Barmasai, who shaved more than three minutes off his previous best time of 2.10.31.
“Compared to the ones I have run before, this is very flat and the temperature is moderate.
“I was just focusing on running 2hr 08min, so to improve my personal best by three minutes makes me very happy. The next time I run I can go faster.”
Barmasai was followed home by his compatriot, Evans Cheruiyot. Eshetu Wendimu, Gebrselassie’s training partner and occasional pacemaker in the past, finished third for the fourth time around this course.
The rowdy Ethiopian supporters massed at the finish line still had something to cheer when Aselefech Mergia claimed the women’s race in 2hrs 22mins 45secs, three seconds shy of the course record.
She beat the Kenyan runner, Lydia Cheromei by 16 seconds, even though she was hindered by a leg injury. “I was really feeling pain after 15km and I was in trouble at that point,” Mergia said.
“After 20kms I was starting to feel better. I am very happy to have managed to win even with these injuries.”
• Marathon men
David Barmasai, Kenya
• Marathon women
Aselefech Medessa, Ethiopia
• 10km men
Ihya Bem Youssef, Morocco
• 10km women
Belthem Belayneh Deslagn, UAE
• Wheelchair marathon
Rob Smith, England