x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Everyone a winner in the long run

Aselefech Mergia Medessa, also of Ethiopia, broke the women's record with two hours, 19 minutes and 31 seconds.

uge screens near the starting lines kept crowds updated on the runners' progress after the 7am start.
uge screens near the starting lines kept crowds updated on the runners' progress after the 7am start.

DUBAI // Almost 20,000 people braved the biting chill early yesterday in Downtown Dubai to run in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.

"It is just the place to be. People from all walks of life and professions are taking part," said Christian Chenwi, a security officer, after finishing the 10-kilometre run that took place alongside the 42km marathon and 3km fun run.

"It's the first time I have taken part. I will unfailingly make it back next year."

Huge screens near the starting lines kept crowds updated on the runners' progress after the 7am start.

Two hours, four minutes and 23 seconds after the starters' gun, hordes of Ethiopian fans waved flags and cheered excitedly as their country's Ayele Abshero Biza crossed the finish line with a course record - and the fourth fastest time in marathon history.

Aselefech Mergia Medessa, also of Ethiopia, broke the women's record with two hours, 19 minutes and 31 seconds.

"I wanted to jump and take pictures of Abshero at the same time," said Timnit Yehaysh, an Ethiopian therapist at a Dubai autism centre, wearing a bandana in her country's colours. "I was really excited to see him come first. It feels so good to see our flag fluttering high."

A local runner also took home one of the titles: Bethlem Desalyn, a Dubai resident who has her eye on this year's London Olympics, won the women's 10km in 34 minutes and 14 seconds.

Organisers said more than 19,500 people had taken part in the morning run.

The 10km race registered the largest numbers, with about 12,000 participants.

Many amateur runners had trained for months to make it to the end.

"I practised for three months in my spare time," said Nanfah Raoul, a waiter at a restaurant in the Dubai Mall, who completed the 10km race in 50 minutes. "I did better than my previous time. Now I want to work harder for the next year."

Edna Roncal, a nurse at Dubai's Rashid Hospital who took part in the 3km fun run, said: "I ran on the treadmill for the past one month. This is my first time and I hope I do well."

Yesterday was the first time in the race's 13-year history that it started in Downtown Dubai. Previously it began in Media City and continued along the Jumeirah Beach Road.

Roads around the venue, Al Satwa and the Jumeirah Beach were closed to traffic until the afternoon to ease congestion. Footbridges at the Dubai Mall and Business Bay metro stations were opened early for participants.

In the morning, helicopters hovered over the track, while police in cars and organisers on bicycles accompanied the runners through the race. Organisers and security personnel manned the roads, directing visitors to the venue.

For many security officers the race provided some excitement, although they had to take positions earlier than usual.

"I had to look for violence, facilitate parking and give people directions to the marathon," said Dan Kituno. "I get to talk to so many different people and that's why I don't mind working under any weather conditions."

 

pkannan@thenational.ae