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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Dubai Marathon 2018: Tamirat Tola says time will tell if course will be world-record venue

Reigning men's champion says course is flat and fast but 'no one has run on it to really know'

Defending champion Tamirat Tola is looking forward to his third visit to Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Defending champion Tamirat Tola is looking forward to his third visit to Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Reigning Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon champion Tamirat Tola has said only time will tell whether the flat course in the Jumeirah area will be a world-record venue, as described by the event's organisers.

“From what I have learnt so far, the course is flat and fast to achieve a world-record time. But no one has run on it to really know,” Tola said on Wednesday during the launch ceremony at Westin Hotel in Dubai.

“I hope to do my best, and I can’t say if the best will be enough to establish a new world record. It’s something yet to be achieved and we’ll see what happens on the race day.”

Tola, 27, set a course record of 2h:04m:11s when he won it last year.

It was also the 10th-fastest time set at a marathon - a fact the Ethiopian underscored by winning the silver medal at the World Athletics Championships in London in August.

“It’s my third visit to Dubai and I love this place,” said Tola, who also won bronze in the 10,000 metres at the 2016 Rio Olympics and gold at the IAAF Cross Country Championships a year earlier.

“I ran the shorter distances as I got the opportunity to run for my country on the track. But I returned to the marathon distance soon after that race."

Tamirat Tola set a course record of 2h:04m:11s when he won the Dubai Marathon last year. AFP
Tamirat Tola set a course record of 2h:04m:11s when he won the Dubai Marathon last year. AFP

Tola added the field on Friday event was going to be strong "as you would expect it to be".

"There are several good runners and it’s hard to tell how the race will pan out for me," he said. "I’m hoping for a good result with a good timing.”

The 19th staging has drawn Olympians as well as major marathon winners with more than 40 international titles between them.

Challenging him for the title is a host of fellow Ethiopians - Endeshaw Negese, Sisay Lemma, Girmay Birhanu, Mosinet Geremew and Sisay Jisa. Kenyan duo Ronald Kipkoech and Joseph Kiprono are also in the running.

Ethiopians will also headline the women's competition, with Worknesh Degefa heading the group that also includes three-time Dubai winner Aselefech Mergia.

“I’m more prepared than last year,” Degefa said. “I’m coming into the race after running some half marathons, and only God knows who will win on Friday.”

Mergia predicted her chances when she said “obviously I want to win as much as any other in this field. I have done my bit in preparing for Dubai and looking forward to the race".

Worknesh Degefa is the top contender for the women's title. Pawan Singh / The National
Worknesh Degefa is the top contender for the women's title. Pawan Singh / The National

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Paula Radcliffe, the British women’s world marathon record holder who is a part of the commentary team, acknowledged the course will be flat and fast. But she said it will take some effort to break the world record, even though they "are there to be broken".

“It’s very tough to set a record," Radcliffe pointed out. "I remember the closing stages, the last 2 miles of that race [2003 London Marathon].

“All I was thinking at that time was to keep working hard and run fast as I can for the record that would stay as long as possible. Having said that, I didn’t think it would stand this long.

“I tried to break that record myself and I was unable to do that. That’s how hard it is.

“On Friday, I would expect a fast race and it’s always possible to break the record. The course is good, the conditions are good and the competition is good. So all of that combination together will see a very good performance from the winner.”