Bekele-Kenenisa-Dubai-12-14Athletics Illustrated with files from Race News Service.

Image credit: Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon

The Standard Dubai Marathon will host the world’s fastest runner over the 5,000 and 10,000m distances on Sunday, January 23rd. Kenenisa Bekele will take on his third marathon after debuting at the distance in Paris 2014 with the new course record of 2:05:04, he followed that race up with the 2014 Chicago Marathon, where he finished fourth in the time of 2:05:51. He intends to win gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Apparently he wants to make amends in Dubai, where Ethiopians have produced brilliant performances and have bettered the 2:05 barrier in each of the last three races. In 2012 countryman Ayele Abshero set the current course record of 2:04:23.

Bekele is without doubt one of the greatest long distance runners of all time. The 32-year-old has won three Olympic titles over the 5,000 and 10,000m distances, five world championship titles on the track. He has won 11 world titles in cross-country.

The Dubai marathon route is flat and fast.

“I’ve followed the race in recent years and know that the Dubai course is very flat which should make fast times possible. Of course, switching to the marathon is not easy but I’m delighted at the challenge offered by Dubai and hope, as Ambassador for the Dubai Holding Corporate Wellness Programme, I can motivate people of all ages to run if I produce a fast time,” said Bekele at a press conference for the race which offers the biggest prize in marathon running at $200,000 each for the men’s and women’s champions.

As for his possible time, Bekele explained, “I’ve learned from my first two marathons and will be better prepared for Dubai than for Paris and Chicago. I hope we can attack the course record of 2:04:23. Of course, I can’t forget Haile Gebrselassie’s Ethiopian record of 2:03:59 – it would be great if I could break that. But the priority in Dubai would be to improve my personal best and set a course record if possible.“

The Event Director Peter Connerton believes that Bekele’s participation could have the same effect – in terms of raising the popularity of the race – as did Gebrselassie’s who won the title for three consecutive years from 2008. “Just like Haile, Kenenisa has made the move to the marathon after he has won everything on the track and in cross-country,” said Connerton. “So far he has made a better start to his marathon career than did Haile and Paul Tergat. Kenenisa is determined to reach the next level in the marathon. We’re proud that he believes that Dubai is the right place for the next advance in his extraordinary career.”

Jos Hermens, Bekele’s manager, also believes that his athlete has still much more to give in the marathon, “Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat also needed a few races before they ran world records,” said the Dutch agent. Hermens is optimistic that Bekele can produce a very good performance in Dubai, “I’m sure that Kenenisa will be better prepared for the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon than for his first two marathons – he didn’t have the capacity in those races to break 2:05. He’s a runner who needs competitive pressure. In the past Kenenisa was always especially strong when he ran cross-country in the winter. He had to prepare for that as he had to train with intensity during the winter. That’s also the case for the Dubai Marathon. He recovered fast and the training for Chicago will also help in his build-up for Dubai.”

Bekele has learned the lessons from the race in Chicago. “I saw that I had to train more and in a different way if I were to be successful in the marathon,” said the Olympic champion, who also has a new and well-known coach from Italy: “Renato Canova has taken over my training since Chicago. He is with me in Addis Ababa and the training is going well.”

Bekele has demonstrated great range in his career as his 1500m best is 3:32.35, however, he may be best known as a 5,000m and 10,000m talent having run 12:37.35 and 26:17.53, respectively – both of which are Olympic and World records. He won double gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics; he also won the 2004 Olympic gold medal over 10000 metres. Bekele has earned 19 gold medals between the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, World Track and Field Championships and Olympic Games. At the 2012 London Olympic Games he finished fourth in the 10,000m event, having finished in 27:32.44 behind his brother Tariku, Galen Rupp of the US and Mo Farah of Great Britain who won in 27:30.42.

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