Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 3 August 2020

Kenenisa Bekele targets Dennis Kimetto’s world-record time at 2017 Dubai Marathon

Four months after coming to within six seconds of the world record, Kenenisa Bekele has set his sights on setting a new mark here in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday.
Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele after crossing the finish line to win the 43rd Berlin Marathon in Berlin on September 25, 2016. John MacDougall / AFP
Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele after crossing the finish line to win the 43rd Berlin Marathon in Berlin on September 25, 2016. John MacDougall / AFP

DUBAI // Four months after coming to within six seconds of the world record, Kenenisa Bekele has set his sights on setting a new mark here in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday.

One of the greatest distance runners of all time, Ethiopian Bekele had stormed to victory at the Berlin Marathon on September 25, clocking 2 hours, 3 minutes, 3 seconds, second fastest off all time behind Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57, set in Berlin in 2014.

The world record was not one of Bekele’s targets in Berlin – all he wanted was to improve on his personal best of 2:05:04. Now he wants to set the world record here Dubai, which should be the perfect icing on the cake for the world’s richest marathon.

“For Berlin, my plan was to run a fast time, my personal best, I had not planned for a world record,” said Bekele, who has 16 world championship titles to his name and is the holder of the 5,000m and 10,000m world records. “So I just focused on running a good time and getting a personal best.

“It’s really different when you are running for the world record. Just running for personal best is not the same. So here, it is possible to expect a world record or something because I have the experience from the last marathon. I believe I have a good opportunity to run a world record.”

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If he gets to the mark, Bekele will take home an additional US$250,000 (Dh918,050) for the world record, along with the winner’s cheque of $200,000. But he did caution against the pre-race hype.

“The plan is to run a world record, but, of course, you cannot say 100 per cent I will achieve this record,” said Bekele, who was not selected to the Ethiopian marathon team for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Every race is different, but I am in a good condition and I am fully confident. My preparation has gone well and I am healthy enough, and I expect a better time here.

“Dubai is known as a fast course, so hopefully some good things will happen on Friday.”

This is Bekele’s second appearance in Dubai, which is an IAAF Gold Label marathon. The course record is 2:04:23 set by Ethiopian Ayele Abshero in 2012. He could not complete the race in 2015 due to an injury, but is determined to continue Ethiopia’s domination of the race.

The Ethiopians have won 10 of the 17 men’s races, including eight of the past nine, and the list of winners includes Haile Gebrselassie, who won three in succession between 2008 and 2010. In the women’s event, the Ethiopians have won 12 of 17, including all of the last 10.

Runners from the East African country are again expected to dominate, with Shure Demise and Meselech Melkamu favourites on the women’s side.

Winner of the last two Toronto Marathons, Demise, who will be celebrating her 21st birthday on Saturday, ran a personal best here in 2015 on her way to finishing fourth, while Melkamu was runner-up in 2014.

Those two, however, could end up being the sideshow with the world’s focus being on Bekele’s quest for the world record on Friday, when more than 30,000 runners are expected to compete across the marathon, the 10km Road Race and the 4km Fun Run.

Is a sub-two-hour time possible? Bekele believes so, but probably not this Friday.

“If everything goes well, it can happen and I will be really happy if I can do it,” he said. “But, of course, it needs a special course, special preparation and I have not prepared for under two hours.

“With normal preparation, you cannot do it. So I think, it’s probably not the time yet.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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Updated: January 18, 2017 04:00 AM

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