Running: Dubai debutant Bekele declares Desisa a top contender
- Updated: January 15, 2015
January 15, 2015: Olympic legend Kenenisa Bekele has said former champion Lelisa Desisa will be among his main rivals as the Ethiopian prepares for his Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon debut on January 23.
Bekele, 32, has been training every day in and around his home city of Addis Ababa since signing up to run the world’s richest marathon as Ambassador of the Dubai Holding Wellness Programme.
With no time off over the Christmas and New Year holidays, the three-time Olympic gold medallist is looking for at least a new personal best in his third marathon, despite the presence in Dubai of many of the world’s greatest marathon runners, including Desisa, his 25-year-old compatriot.
“There will certainly be at least 10 to 15 athletes to watch,” said Bekele, who remains the world record holder at both 5,000m and 10,000m. “Lelisa Desisa has already won both the Boston Marathon and the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (both in 2013), so he has shown himself to be a very strong athlete with great experience in marathons.”
Bekele won on his marathon debut in Paris last April with a course record and current personal best of 2:05:04 – a time that would have earned him second place in Dubai last year – and in October finished fourth in Chicago.
“I just want to go step-by-step in my marathon career,” said Bekele, who has won 16 World Championship titles. “Dubai will be a very important race for me in terms of my personal best and I have already learned from racing in Paris and Chicago. But despite my achievements on the track and cross-country, I still have relatively little experience in the marathon distance.”
Over the past few months, he has spent around four hours a day working on a mixture of training methods, with Italian coach Renato Canova sprinkling his programme with endurance work and a running split of 80 per cent road and forest running, 10 per cent fitness and 10 per cent strength.
“I’ve certainly worked hard, with no time off during the holiday period,” Bekele said. “I’m definitely ready for Dubai and looking forward to seeing everyone at the start line. I’ve heard so much about the course and the conditions, so now is the time to see it for myself.”
Organisers expect the grandstands to be packed from the early hours as running fans – especially those from Ethiopia – gather to show their respect for an athlete who is to distance running what Usain Bolt is to sprinting.
Event Director Peter Connerton said: “I expect the grandstands to be full of singing Ethiopian fans by the time the runners take to the course at 7.00am. It’s an incredible field with more than 20 men who have all run under 2:10 for the marathon.
“Kenenisa has already had a better start to his marathon career than other legends who have made the step up – including Paul Tergat and our three-time winner Haile Gebrselassie – so his participation here in Dubai has really caught the sport’s attention.”
Over 25,000 runners are expected to compete across the marathon, 10km road race and 4km fun run categories. In addition to Standard Chartered as title sponsor, the Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, Adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Sport 360, Masafi, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police and the RTA.
Source: Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (www.dubaimarathon.org); Editing by SportAsia