Ethiopia's Dera Dida out to retain her women’s Dubai Marathon crown

Dida eyeing a personal best time in a bid to push for a place on the Olympic team

Ethiopia's Dera Dida hopes a repeat victory at the Dubai Marathon and a personal best time can help secure her place at the Paris Olympics. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Dera Dida typically shuns the spotlight and is barely heard when speaking. But on the road in running the marathon distance, she is a warrior making her voice heard.

The reigning Dubai Marathon women's champion is back in the emirate for Sunday's event looking to both retain her title and secure a spot on the three-member Ethiopian national team heading for the Paris Olympics this summer.

Dida, 27, kicked for home with around two kilometres to go to win last year's race at Expo City. This time around she tackles the flat and fast roads around the landmark Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Road area.

“I love running in Dubai. I won it last year and this time I want to win as well as try to better my personal best time so I can be a contender for the national team in the Paris Olympics,” she told The National through a translator at Friday's launch ceremony.

“If I can achieve that, it would be a dream come true for me. It’s not easy to represent Ethiopia in any distance races, though. I’ll do my best, and if I achieve my objective, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a spot in the national Olympic team.”

Dida arrives after running a personal best of two hours, 19 minutes and 24 seconds at the Berlin Marathon last September. As good as that time was, it paled against the mark set by fellow Ethiopian Tigist Assefa, who broke the women’s marathon world record with a time of 2:11: 53.

“That’s full credit to her,” she said of her compatriot’s world record. “We are in two different clubs back home but I have trained with her on and off. I wish Tigist will be in the Olympic team and will be at her best to bring gold for our nation.

“It really doesn’t matter who gets picked for the three-member marathon squad but whoever makes it, I wish them success.”

Deda is running her fourth Dubai Marathon since finishing seventh on her debut. She was fifth two years later, before securing victory last time out.

“I can take a lot of positives from my last marathon by achieving a personal best time,” she said.

“The course around the Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah is flat and fast, and I’m hopeful I can finish my race in a better time than Berlin.

“Anyway, it’s very hard to say what will happen in a race. Sometimes you can’t achieve the result you want, even with the best preparation for a marathon. I don’t know how hard the others have trained on.”

She meets fellow Ethiopian Ruth Aga, whom she edged out to win the Dubai title just under 12 months ago.

“Ruth and I are not in the same club, so I won’t know how much she has changed from last year,” she said.

“That was also the first time we ran in the same race. I would expect a tough challenge, not only from her but the remainder of the elite runners. There can always be an element of surprise in a marathon.”

Winning the Dubai Marathon last year remains her biggest success to date and she intends to make it even more memorable with a personal best time on Sunday (6pm).

Updated: January 06, 2024, 12:39 PM